Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Mom, apple pie, and...poetry?  Most people don't consider rhymed verse the great American pass time.  Nor do we often connect homers, chewing tobacco, and public scratching with the likes of ee cummings or Langston Hughes.  Yet, there's a delightful little magazine out there that manages to combine the two.

Okay, I'll admit it, I'm not a poet by nature.  I've written short stories, essays, even a piece for the AKC Gazette, the magazine of the American Kennel Club.  Poetry tends to be reserved for when I want to be obnoxious, when I've had a few too many, or when I want to aggravate the heck out of my sister, who is a poet.  I did, however, have one poem published in my life and it just happened to  be about baseball.  Actually, it combined my mother and baseball and didn't mention crotch scratching.  It was called The Utility Player and came out in the Spring 1994 issue of SpitballSpitball is, yes, a literary baseball magazine.  It is filled with not only poetry but fiction, non-fiction, and art as well.  Curl up with the latest issue and an over sized plate of nachos and you have the makings for a great afternoon.

The reason I bring up Spitball is because people often think that poetry can only be about serious issues.  It's the place to rage against an abusive parent, lament the politicians who've brought us to this state of affairs, ponder the meaning of it all.  Obviously, there are plenty of poets who write about those things, but maybe that's not your style.  Plenty of poems have been written about the green grass in a meadow.  Give me the green grass surrounding first base.  Many have written of the pain of losing a loved one.  I can write about the pain of being a Cubs fan and nearing the centennial mark since our last World Series win.

In case you weren't aware, this month of April is not only the first full month of the baseball season but also National Poetry Month.  There's a great website called Nudged to Write, where you can find all sorts of links, prompts, and information about both National Poetry Month and poetry in general.  The site is owned by Nancy Breen, former editor of Poet's Market and a widely published poet, as well as the aforementioned sister of mine who I like to aggravate with my poetry.  It was while reading some of her writing prompts that I got to thinking about the baseball-poetry connection.  I know she would approve of writing about what you know and love.  And I'm sure she'd agree that there is room in the poetry world for all topics.

NOTE:  If you sign up for the Nudged to Write newsletter, she'll send you a free e-book of writing prompts based on famous poets' works.  I love a freebie almost as much as I love baseball...and nachos.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011


Last week I posted a recipe for TAGALONGS SHAKE.  Today I have a recipe using Lemon Chalet Cremes, the lemon sandwich style cookie.  The recipes were provided at The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio Cookie Rally my daughter attended last month.  I haven't made any of these personally, so I can't vouch for the taste.  I intend to try them out when we receive the cookies in February and I will update with my evaluation.  If anyone tries the recipe out before I, I'd love to have your opinion in the comments section!

Crust ingredients:
* 1/2 box of Lemon Chalet Cremes Girl Scout Cookies
* 1/2 stick butter, melted
* 1-1/4 cup chopped pecans

* 2 packages lemon flavored instant pudding plus required milk
* 16 oz. whipped topping 

Mix crust ingredients and press the mixture into greased 9" x 9" glass baking dish.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes and then allow to cool.  For the next layer, prepare the lemon-flavored instant pudding according to package directions.  Spread over the crust.  For the final layer, spread the whipped topping over the pudding layer.

Monday, February 21, 2011

52 Letters in 52 Weeks - #6

A couple weeks ago I became aware of Renee's blog at The 2011 Letter Project.  She is a homeschooling mother who is trying to collect 2,011 letters this year from all over the world.  This is just the kind of project that appeals to me and it just happens to fit in with my own 52 Letters in 52 Weeks Project.

I dropped a small package in the mail to Renee last week and it hopefully has arrived by now.  I wrote a letter telling her family about Cincinnati, where I grew up, as well as the city to the north where I now live.  I told her about two of my favorite Cincinnati destinations -- Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal and the Cincinnati Zoo.  I explained how Cincinnati got the nickname "Porkopolis" (think slaughterhouses) and how the winged pig has become the mascot of the city.  I tossed in some brochures for local Cincinnati destinations including King's Island amusement park and Coney Island, King's Island's predecessor along the Ohio River.

I also sent her a Cincinnati treat -- a can of Skyline Chili.  Cincinnati is well known for its special chili, which is significantly different from the Texas-style chili most people are used to.  For a brief history of Cincinnati chili you can out the Wikipedia page, which will not only tell you some of the more unusual ingredients in Cincinnati chili but also tell you the difference between a two-way and a five-way. 

The best thing about Renee's project is that she posts pictures and information about the letters she receives, so we all get to share in her project.  I encourage you to check it out for a good read and if you're interested in sending them a letter, shoot her an e-mail and she'll be happy to send you contact information.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cincinnati Zoo Adoption -- Another Way to Say "I Love You"

For most of my son's 11 years, we have given a yearly Valentine gift to the Cincinnati Zoo in the form of their A.D.O.P.T. program.  Through donation to this program you can "adopt" an animal of your choice from the zoo.  My children love animals and the Cincinnati Zoo is one of their favorite outings.  In addition to our sight-seeing romps, my children also attend classes where they learn about animals and are given the chance to touch various critters in a safe environment.  (One of our favorites has always been Minnie, the Chinchilla.  You've never felt such soft fur!)  The Zoo also has an annual Festival of Lights in December, a Hall-Zoo-Ween celebration in October, Zoo Babies in the spring, and some of the most gorgeous flowers to be found in the city.

In addition, they are working hard make the Zoo environmentally friendly and to live up to their reputation as "The Greenest Zoo in America."  They incorporate wind power, green building practices for new construction, energy efficient products, and water conservation into daily operations.  This year they are embarking on a new project with solar energy.  A huge parking area will be covered with a canopy of solar panels, the largest urban, publicly accessible solar array in the country.  It is expected to generate about 20% of the Zoo's energy needs and they are hopeful that some sunny and cool days they can be off the grid completely.  It's this kind of innovative thinking that gets me excited, and hopeful, about the future.  (Please check out this link to the Zoo's website for more information or watch the brief video below.  It's awesome!)

Since I have two animal-loving children, they take turns choosing the animal of the year.  This Valentine's Day belonged to my daughter and she chose to adopt the manatee.  We received a lovely certificate with their names and the occasion on it, as well as an informational sheet on manatees.  (We're frequent contributors to Save the Manatee Club as well, so these gentle giants have a special place in our hearts.)  Higher donation levels come with even more perks such as Zoo shop discounts, Christmas ornaments, and docent-lead tours.  It's a nice way to give back to the Zoo for all the knowledge and joy they've given my children.  And it's a good lesson for the kids as well.

If you're planning a trip to Cincinnati, be sure to check out and pay then a visit.  Tell the manatees we said "hi"!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


Last week I posted a recipe for THIN MINT BROWNIES.  Today I have a recipe using Tagalongs, the Girl Scout cookie with the peanut butter filling dipped in chocolate.  These recipes were provided at The Girl Scouts of Western Ohio Cookie Rally my daughter attended last month.  I haven't made any of these personally, so I can't vouch for the taste.  I intend to try them out when we receive the cookies in February and I will update with my evaluation.  If anyone tries the recipe out before I, I'd love to have your opinion in the comments section!

Makes 2 servings

* 1/2 box of Tagalongs Girl Scout Cookies
* 6 cups of vanilla ice cream
* 1 cup of milk
* 1 can of whipped cream
Mix cookies, ice cream, and milk in blender.  Blend until desired thickness.  Serve in tall milkshake glass and top with whipped cream and garnish with crumbled cookies.

Saturday, February 12, 2011


When my son made his ill-advised comment at Christmas that his upcoming iPod gift was a "snooze-fest", I made the decision that I was going to severely cut back on my gift-giving.  Every minor holiday somehow has become a mini-Christmas.  Last year for Valentine's Day my kids each received candy plus a Pillow Pet from me.  They loved them.  It was a successful gift.  Other gifts, however, were not so popular and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.

In an effort to teach my children that less is more and that there is as much joy in giving as receiving, I informed them that this Valentine's Day they'd receive only candy.  The money I would have spent was instead going to a cause close to our hearts.  We are animal lovers in our family, particularly dogs and cats, and we care passionately about pet overpopulation.  We support numerous no-kill shelters, help to finance low-cost spay and neuter clinics, contribute to the Cincinnati Pet Food Pantry who distribute pet food to low-income owners, and have ourselves adopted three stray animals that wandered into our yard.  Knowing how much they loved animals, it seemed obvious what to do with the Valentine gift money.

My mother, sister, and I took my two kids to PetSmart today.  I gave them each the amount of money I spent on last year's Pillow Pets and let them pick out items from the League for Animal Welfare's wish list.  My son  chose canned food.  They were in need of food for dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens.  He carefully picked sizes and flavors he thought were appropriate.  He also chose a 28 pound box of scoopable kitty litter.  My daughter took the decision a little less seriously.  She fell passionately in love with a stuffed squeaky toy which she wanted for herself but agreed to pass on to the shelter.  She also picked out some soft dog treats.  She wandered off with Grandma while I filled in the gaps from the wish list with a 6' nylon leash, a large Nylabone, and a box of small Milkbone dog biscuits.  As usual there was a rescue group at the PetSmart and we saw several sweet dogs walking around wearing shirts that said "Adopt Me."  It's all I can do not to come home with a 40 pound bag of dog food and a 40 pound dog.

Looking at the dogs.

We have a particular fondness for hound dogs.
During the 30 minute drive to the shelter we listened to Bill Cosby cd's in the van.  Upon arrival we hauled in the bags, as well as some afghans I made from scrap yarn.  I had dozens of small balls of yarn from past projects and I crocheted them into ugly but functional afghans.  They use them folded on the cat beds and in cages.  After dropping the supplies at the front desk we went to the back to view the animals.  We started with the dogs, who live in very clean kennels and are easily viewed behind the glass.  We aren't allowed in to pet them, probably for liability reasons, but we wave hello to all of them and read their stories on the cards pinned to bulletin boards.  We also saw our sponsored dog, Connor.  We have $10 per month automatically deducted from our bank account each month to help with his care and maintenance until his adoption.  There's an adorable picture of him on the bulletin board wallowing in a filled kiddie pool.

From there we moved on to the half dozen or so cat rooms.  In these we are able to pet, cuddle, and play with the critters.  Despite my desire to take home every animal at the shelter, I'm always left feeling happy when I leave The League.  A traditional kill-shelter I find almost intolerable to visit, as I know if I don't take the dogs home many won't live long.  Of course, taking home every dog and cat is impossible, so I'm left depressed and miserable.  I always tell my kids that the worst thing that will happen to the animals we see at The League is that they will simply stay at the shelter forever.  And it's a beautiful shelter.  Each dog has his or her own kennel with a flap door so he can go into an enclosed area outside at will.  The cats live about 6-8 to a room, with plenty of climbing apparatuses, beds, and toys.  The cat rooms too each have a flap door that opens into a fenced area outside, complete with a bird feeder just outside the fence, giving the cats plenty to stare at.  Everything is clean and all the animals are well cared for.  The only depressing element is that I know there are some pets who have homes that aren't taken care of nearly as well as these animals in the shelter.
Do these cats have it made or what?

When we arrived home we were greeted by our own two cats and our big hound dog mix who sniffed us for the next 15 minutes in wonder.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

52 Letters in 52 Weeks - Letter #5

I had to explain to my 78 year old mother why she was receiving a letter from me, since she lives 6 minutes away by car.  As part of Katy Wolk-Stanley's 52 Letters in 52 Weeks Project, I'm dropping lines to everyone I can think of and while there's probably no "news" my mother hasn't already heard from me via e-mail, telephone, or in person, she seemed an obvious choice for my fountain pen.

I often tell my son he is "pure awesomeness."  If he gets that quality from anyone, it's from his grandmother.  My mom is an award-winning cook (ribbons, baking contests, recipe contests), an award-winning quilter, a blogger, and an all around cool person.  Lately her blog, Lillian's Cupboard, has been featuring Civil War quilt blocks she's making from Barbara Brackman's patterns.  She's seen a big increase in traffic to her own blog because the instructions given for the Civil War blocks are sometimes confusing, especially to novices, so my mother has taken it upon herself to give step by step directions on how she did each block, complete with pictures.  Based on the comments she's received, many a new quilter is considering her a godsend.

Every Sunday the kids and I go to her house for lunch, which ensures I get at least one decent home cooked meal a week complete with dessert.  (My own culinary skills and interest are both mediocre and my kids refuse to try anything more exotic than a piece of grilled steak.)  My mother often posts the recipes for these meals, complete with pictures, on her blog.  If you ever need a meal idea, her blog is the place to go.

Joan Fontaine - 1939

Her sewing skills have also been put to good use over the years.  She's made everything from clothes for my children to quilts for Project Linus to cat motif tote bags for the League for Animal Welfare's Christmas party craft sale.  In 1995, as I was planning my wedding, I saw a black and white photo of Joan Fontaine from her 1939 wedding and I wanted that wedding dress. 

My mother and father - 1952
I had also been inspired by my mother's own dress from her 1952 wedding, which was borrowed from her future sister-in-law.  It was much too heavy for her May wedding and too big, but she looked stunning.  I wanted a dress like my mother's and Ms. Fontaine's -- simple cut with a 40s/50s feel, shimmering white satin, and no embellishments.  At the time every dress I looked at was dripping with sequins and beads and pearls.  The solution?  My mother to the rescue.  For a fraction of the cost of a purchased dress my mother sewed a beautiful white satin dress with a full skirt, puffed sleeves, and faux pearl buttons up the back.  I wore a strand of pearls and pearl earrings my then-fiance purchased for me, along with a veil of handmade lace my sister made.  It was exactly the look I was going for.

My husband and me - 1995
My son commented the other day, after seeing a paw print patterned blanket and pillowcase my mother whipped up at my daughter's request, "Is there anything Grandma can't do?"  Outside of riding a bicycle and playing guitar, I don't think there is.