Pure ‘Bwa


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This post is dedicated to Sandy and Denny Rosen.  Keepers of the flame.

Take a look at the guy in the matching red shirt on the steps behind me. If you don’t know him, that’s Denny Rosen, Director of Camp Ojibwa and spiritual leader- and  master prime rib carver- of the annual summertime festival known as Post Camp.  More about Denny and the red shirts in a moment…

Many of you readers already know how I feel about this place.  Every summer I’ve gone on and on about its virtues.  And many of you are former campers or current Post Campers.

But just in either case you’re a newbie, let me introduce you to one of the most magical places I know.

The campus of Camp Ojibwa in Eagle River, Wisconsin.

Here’s Catfish Lake.

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Or would some of you landlubbers prefer the baseball diamond?

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If chowing down is your thing, get a load of this.  (This is only part of breakfast but there are FOUR squares a day.)

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And after you have sailed or water skied or fished or climbed the rock wall or played tennis or golf or had a pickup basketball game or did the zip line or biked or hiked or tie-dyed or worked out in the gym or played softball under the lights or went to the dance or took a twilight cruise or saw the movie, you could always do this.

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One of the things I love at Post Camp is the fact that you and your family can be as busy as your heart desires.

Or as lazy as your battered soul demands.

The outside world- along with cares and woes- disappears and you’re left with the scent of pine woods and an echo of carefree childhood summer.

Another thing I love about Post Camp is my condo.  Take a gander.

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You can see the amenities like the fridge and flat screen tv.  But I love the bathtub, the heaters and the desk. This place is the Ritz of the North Woods and I look forward to staying in it every season.

This year, there was a tiny glitch.

My first night was spent in the camp hospital.

Nope, I wasn’t sick.  A scheduling hiccup had arisen and Denny asked me if I would give up my four star accommodations for one night.

What was a girl to do?

Easy.

This.

The Med Shed.

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Denny himself took me on a tour.

“I’m sorry that you’re out of your condo for the one night.  But the whole place is yours. Which room would you like?”

I looked over the real estate and couldn’t decide.

“Which room would you take?” I asked the Boss.

“I like the desk,” he said.

Sold.

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This must be the reception room.  You can’t see it but hiding behind my stuff is a bell.  And there is a notepad on the wall.  I figure this is where the occasional under the weather camper reported.

I loved having the whole joint to myself at night.  (And I guess that made me ER in the ER in ER.)

Very Dr. Kildare.

Denny heaved a sigh of relief.

“You’ve been a good sport about this.  And I promised you a shirt.”

He drove me over in a golf cart to a locked shed.

It was full of Camp Ojibwa swag.

I was drooling at the sight of all that clothing emblazoned with the camp logos.
Again I couldn’t make a decision. Denny came to the rescue once more.

“Take this one,” he said as he handed me a very cool red shirt.

What can I say?

The moment was pure ‘Bwa.

What does that mean?

To me, it’s shorthand for new friends becoming old friends.

Friends helping friends.

And friends becoming family.

I’m proud to be a part of it all.

See you up there next summer, Dear Readers.

Your bench is waiting.

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Now take a look at some camps that are nothing like Ojibwa.

Rise and shine, Campers!

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Posted in Camp Ojibwa, Post Camp, Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Day Drink Believer

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Author’s Note:  Hi, Dear Readers.  I’m off on my annual summer fling to Eagle River.  See you back here on Sunday, August 21.  But first to the (monkey) business at hand…

I’ve come to a crossroads, guys.  Just check out those street signs.  I have to admit it.  I have discovered the joys of…

Wait for it…

Day Drinking.

Patsy and Edina- the two Ab Fab gals- have shown me the way.

Movie Review Sidebar:  I just saw Absolutely Fabulous, The Movie, last weekend.  I give it 15 stars.  Let me just add that if you’re not a rabid fan of the television show, don’t bother to see it.  It has NO socially-redeemable virtues whatsoever. (Just like Eddie and Patsy.) But if you are an Ab Fab aficionado, drop everything, grab a bottle of Bolly for your purse and go immediately.  I screamed with laughter.

My road to ruin started here.

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That’s the very sexy bar at RL.

When my buddy, SuperCPA Kevin Gibson was in town for a seminar last October, we dashed in one late Saturday afternoon to get out of the rain.  He ordered a G&T.  I ordered a Diet Coke.

“You’re no fun,” Kev complained.  “Come on.  Don’t you like champagne? Look, they have a champagne cocktail.  You’re getting it.”

“But it’s a fortune,” I argued.

“You’re getting it.”  Kevin stood firm.

I did and it was divine.  Like the best thing I had ever drunk.  Even better than Seagram’s Diet Ginger Ale.

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And the side effects?

I saw the rest of that gloomy, rainy Saturday in a rainbow-colored haze.

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(This photo was taken a couple of weeks ago on a repeat engagement but you get the idea.)

My next stop on the highway to day-drinking Hell was this joint.

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That’s Charlie Beinlich’s.  North Shore bar- and legend.  Natasha’s favorite place and in my top ten.

My usual order is a hamburger deluxe with grilled and raw onions and the ubiquitous Diet Coke.

But on this Spring afternoon, a trio of old New Trier pals took me to lunch there.

Author’s Note:  For the purposes of preserving their dignity, they will be known as Bob, Mike and Stan.

It was a Tuesday, and when the waiter came around to take our orders, the guys ordered beers.

WTF, I thought.  My love life had taken a turn for the worse and I was in a mood exactly like this.

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If Bogey could take it, I could take it.

“Gimme a Bloody Mary,” I announced.  “Really spicy and really light on the vodka.”

Three mouths fell open.

Bob turned to me in amazement.

“What the heck happened to you?  You don’t drink.”

“Some guy is giving me a very hard time,” I complained.

“Is he nuts?” asked Stan loyally.

Mike clucked sympathetically.

I downed about half that thing and got royally crocked.  I forgot the problematic, would-be boyfriend and started loving the whole wide world.

Hey, this day drinking thing had its advantages, I thought.  I was beginning to see the point of it.

Fast forward to two weeks ago.

A trip to Milwaukee and the first stop was here.

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That’s A. J. Bomber’s and it was chosen by my traveling companion for its burgers, unique peanut delivery system- that’s the overhead chute that sends them right to your table when you’ve eaten your way through a ton of them-  and their justifiably-famous Bloody Marys.

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That thing was terrific!  Especially the olives.  (The little burger/cheese/bacon thing- along with that pony of beer- went to my partner in day-drinking crime.)

And what a sunny mood I was in for the rest of the afternoon.

That was it.  I’m a believer.

It’s day drinking for me from here on out.

BTW, that troublesome guy who had been responsible for my very first Beinlich’s Bloody ever?

Let’s just say…

He had a pretty good time in Milwaukee.

(And so did I.)

Cheers!

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Posted in Beer, Champagne, Hamburgers, Milwaukee, pop culture, RL Bar, Travel | 16 Comments

Post Time

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Author’s Note:  This post is dedicated to the great Phil Georgeff.

A couple of Sundays ago I spent the day at Arlington Park.

The last time I was there it had to be 1986.  We ran into our waiters from Gene and Georgetti’s- those guys always went to the track- and they gave me some of their $2 bills for Natasha and Nick.

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That’s thirty years between races.  It was more than time for “Riders Up!”

I was pretty excited about my Day At The Races.

But not as excited as Kenny and Nick.

“You’re going to Arlington? Nice!  I want a quinella with the numbers 1,4, and 5.  Any race you choose,” instructed Kenny the Horse.

“You’re going to the track, Dude?  Cool. Put some money down for me.  I’ll get back to you after I look at the Racing Form,” directed Nicky Detroit.

The day dawned hot and clear.  It was going to be a fast track.

We found our box at the finish line, my companion went to place his- and Kenny and Nick’s- bets and I settled in to enjoy the view and peruse the menu.

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Suddenly I got a text message from him.

“You don’t want anything on Be Nice Coach?”

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He was right.  I had forgotten that I wanted to bet on that horse.  I liked his name.

I texted back.

“Put $2 on him to win.”

“K”

And then I texted:

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I was just tucking in to my yummy, delivered-to-the-box turkey sandwich when my gentleman caller reappeared.

And then they were off!

It was exciting.  The horses flew by in a whir of color.  The crown roared.  I took a photo.

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“You won!” said my racing enthusiast happily informed me.

Huh?

“Your horse won!  Nice going.”

I was in shock.

“I did?”

I couldn’t believe it.

“How much did I win?” I asked numbly.

“$18.40. ”

Nice.

Just call me Nicely-Nicely Ross.

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Kenny’s quinella bombed out.

And he turned out to be a sore loser.  He saw this photo and said I looked like a “four thousand dollar claimer.”

He also demanded to see a photo of his losing ticket.

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Nick’s pick tank, too.

Shucks. Beginner’s Luck.

And if you’re going to the track, Dear Readers…

I’ve got a horse right here…

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Posted in Arlington Park Race Track, Horseracing | 9 Comments

Dear Abby

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(Photograph by Mary Lu Roffe)

As you may know, I have been back in the dating game for awhile now.  And I always discuss the pros and cons of my various suitors with my brother Kenny.

Don’t ask me why I do this.  He knows baseball.  He knows plenty about baseball.  He knows NOTHING about dating- having married his high school sweetheart, Mary Lu, at the age of twenty-one.

I think his last official date was when he was sixteen.

What he doesn’t know about the current singles scene is a lot.  But I had to vet my new prospects with somebody and I welcomed a man’s point of view on my love life.

So each time I start out on the road to romance with a new guy, I confab with Kenny about the new contender’s particular set of pros and cons.

Let’s take an example from February, shall we?

My latest would-be Romeo had some good stats.  Smart, well-off, from Lake Forest, a widower.  I was good with all of these.

So this guy made the initial cut.  We talked for a week or so and then I agreed to accompany him to dinner and a play at the Goodman.

I figured how terrible could it be?

OMG.

First of all, the date was scheduled for a Friday night.

Now I’m sure that many of you know that traffic into the city of Chicago on a Friday is heinous.  This guy was a world-famous Internet Wiz and I thought that for sure he would know that you have to allot plenty of time to come in from the ‘burbs.

Wrong.  He may have been a Ph.D in computer science but he was a moron when it came to real world stuff.

And even though I had warned him, and begged him to leave enough time to make it to my house by 5:20, he showed up two hours late.

He had stopped to buy me flowers but they were closed… he had gotten lost… the traffic was heavier than he expected… yada yada yada…

I had to give him real-time directions as he called from the car but he still somehow ended up at Wrigley Field. By now, we had missed dinner and the play’s first act, but no matter.

I hated him already.

Then he informed me that there had been a change of plans.  He now had to get to Woodfield Mall in two hours to meet one of his daughters.

WTF?

This left exactly forty-five minutes with me before he had to head west.  So I threw the evening into overdrive and steered him toward my local dive Chinese restaurant where they serve you so fast, you’re out in thirty minutes flat.

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As I gave directions to put him on the Outer Drive, I couldn’t help but notice that he was  a terrible driver. Hesitant, fearful to make lanes changes, other drivers honking their displeasure at us.

I felt just like this.

After an interminable fifteen minutes, I headed him into the parking lot.

Dear Readers, he couldn’t park.

Even with all the bells and whistles of the fancy guidance system on his BMW, he pulled into the parking space and took up half the handicapped space on the right, as well.

This was pathetic.

“You’re in the handicapped parking space,” I pointed out.  “Maybe you should back out and re-park?”

He backed out tremulously and then, oh-so-carefully, made his way all the way down to the end of the parking lot to pull into a space you could park a semi in.

Then we got out of the car and started walking to restaurant.

At least, I did.

He was so sloooooooowwww.

I had to keep stopping and looking over my shoulder to make sure he was still there.

He wasn’t that hungry, he told me.  Could we just have appetizers?

That was fine by me. By now, I had completely lost my appetite.  And I could also see that he would never have time to take me back home and still be on time to meet his daughter.

“Why don’t I grab a cab or Uber home?” I suggested.  “That way you won’t be late.”

Fifteen minutes of painful small talk later, he threw down a twenty to pay for the apps and I hailed a cab.

What a yutz.

When he called the next night, I let it go to voice mail.  And when he called the day after that, I broke it to him that it really wasn’t working for me.

Of course he was shocked.  Boring egomaniacs never ask themselves if you are as interested in them as they are in you.

But here’s how my conversation with my brother- the relationship counselor- went the morning after.

Kenny:  So how was your date last night?

Me:  Awful.

Kenny:  Come on.  Give the guy another chance.  He’s smart, you like Lake Forest, he’s successful.  What more do you want?  You’re lucky if anyone takes you out.

Me:  He couldn’t drive.

Kenny:  So what?  At least he’s got a nice car.  You can drive him.

Me:  He was boring. All he did was talk about himself.

Kenny:  So what?  Who listens?

Me:  His dogs aren’t house-broken.  And he’s got three of them.

Kenny:  So what?  You’re the biggest dog person I know.  You can train them in no time flat.

Me:  He was too old for me.  He could barely walk through the parking lot.

Kenny:  So what?  You’re not getting any younger and Nick and I will ski with you.

Me:  There was no chemistry.  He didn’t turn me on at all.

Kenny:  So what?  He’s old.  You’d probably never have to do it more than once.

Me:  He’s never been to baseball game.

Kenny: What?

Me:  He told me that he’s never been to a baseball game.

Kenny:  Dump him.

Thanks, Kenny. I knew I could rely on you for good, solid real world advice.

But here’s the guy I can always count on for great advice.

Play ball.

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Posted in baseball, Dating, pop culture | 27 Comments

The Miracle Workers

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It all started with Dr. Stevie Young.  A PYBED at Contacts and Specs on Broadway. (Pretty, young, blonde eye doctor.)

“I can’t help you,” she sighed.  “Your cataracts are so bad that I can’t give you a prescription for any more glasses.”

Hold up.  It started back before that.

Way before that.

Like when I was born.

I’ve never been able to really see.  My eyes were whacked out from Day One.

I had a “lazy” eye and 20/10 vision in one of them and 20/200 in the other.

I couldn’t see two inches in front of my nose and I was subjected to to the ignominy of wearing a patch and then ugly, ugly glasses ever since I was about four.

But I did eye exercises diligently, and by the time I was in junior high, I had ditched the glasses for good.

True, I had to wear them for driving later on.  But I wore prescription sunglasses.  And I could never see anything at night- but that was merely an inconvenience.

I was spec-free 90% of the time and that was all that mattered.

But ten years ago, my eye doctor in Aspen gave me the bad news.  I had cataracts and sooner or later, what little vision I had was going to crap out on me.

He was right.

My world was growing dimmer.  The last straw was my visit to Potash.

I went to the one on Clark because I wanted to check out their gourmet food department.

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Was I disappointed.  The epicurean selection look moth-eaten and not up to the Potash standard I had remembered. Sadly, I gazed around the crummy-looking store- boy had it gone downhill- bought some yogurt and went home.

When I was unpacking the yogurt, I looked at the receipt.

I had been in a Big Apple Convenience Store.  It wasn’t Potash at all.

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I went to see Dr. Stevie the next day.

“You have to have the surgery now, ” she informed me.  “Do you need a name of a doctor?”

Just for fun…

I didn’t need one.  My brother Kenny had a name.

The best.

Dr. Steve Brown.  Harvard graduate- and more important to Kenny- a great former pitcher on his New Trier West baseball team.

Good enough reference for me.

I saw Dr. Steve.  He confirmed Dr. Stevie’s diagnosis.  I had a bad case and he had the cure.

Two surgeries were scheduled at Glenbrook Hospital.

And boy, were they eye-openers.  (Sorry.)

From the moment the gal called to give me the check-in information, I knew I was in for something way different from the usual, old school hospital experience.

She was so nice.

And so was everyone else who I came in contact with in the Ambulatory Surgery Unit.

When I arrived to have my left eye done, I was cosseted, petted, spoiled and treated with with utmost in professionalism and concern.

I have to single out Nurse Cathy Goldberg here.

What a doll.

Another New Trier graduate. And beautiful, smart, so congenial- and a great touch with the lidocaine needle.  When I came back for the second surgery on my right eye, she smiled.

“I remember you,” she said.

And she proceeded to treat me like an old friend.

Hot blankets, good chit chat to ease my pre-op nerves (not too many butterflies, I have to admit, but still…) and deft hands that made all the drops and other procedures a walk in the park.

The other nurses, Karen and Sarah, were cut from the same cloth.  Florence Nightingale would have been proud.

Virtually everyone I came in contact with- the gas passer, his assistant, the guy who brought me the bagels and cranberry juice post op- were smiling, patient and concerned about my well-being.

A big change from the old, cold, take-a-number hospital system I remember from the past.

And I have to hand it to Dr. Brown.

Wow.

He’s the man.

Everything went just as he explained it would.  No muss, no fuss, and here I am and I can see.

(And I can see that he’s hunky, ladies.  Just sayin’…)

For the first time in my life, I can read an Arrival/Departure board at O’Hare.

I can read street signs and actually know where I am.

I can see the real colors and graphics on my computer.

I can see dust on my floor. (Not so great, I must admit.  I am now forced to get out a broom once in awhile.)

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Doc.

You may be a great pitcher to Kenny, but you’ll always be MVP (Most Valuable Physician) to me.

And finally, after sixty plus years, it’s a very great pleasure to be able to say:

See you around, Dear Readers.

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Posted in Aging, Cataract Surgery, Glenbrook Hospital, pop culture | 8 Comments

The Scoop

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I feel like having a little fun today, Dear Readers.  Let’s mix things up a little and start off with a clip.

That sums up my feelings. Let’s have summer all the time.

And ice cream.

On these hot, humid days, what could be more perfect, taste-wise, than a cone, a cup or a carton – depending on your wont- of ice cream?

Remember this guy?

That had to be my very first memory of eating ice cream.  Why do I think that a Good Humor bar cost 10 cents when I was a kid?

This is what I liked.

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When The Good Humor man didn’t make it to our neighborhood, my father took us here.

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Cock Robin was between Oakton and Main in Skokie.  And it had square scoops of ice cream.  That always baffled me.

Closer to home- and with normal shaped cones- was Peacock’s in No Man’s Land in Wilmette.

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They had great hot fudge there.

And then there was/is Homer’s in Wilmette.

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I have already written about that magnificent emporium in depth.  ICYMI, read all about it here.

And of course there was Dairy Queen.

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Honesty compels me to admit that I never really loved the “ice cream” at DQ.  The chocolate coating was ok but the vanilla stuff tasted like it was invented by Dow Chemical to me.  I did love the little hamburgers, however, and my brother Kenny- who was addicted to the the burgers, Mr. Misty’s and just about everything else on the menu– would have no compunction about rifling my mother’s purse to feed his habit.

George Washington Cherry Tree Sidebar:  I would ask Kenny how much money he’d take out of her purse.  He’d always say “I didn’t want to take a dollar.  So I took 6 quarters.” Not exactly a math whizz but he could ride his bike there in five minutes flat.

As a teenager I hung out at “Thirty-One.”  The Baskin Robbins in Glencoe.  Almost every summer night date ended up there.

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Back in the day, a guy named Al used to run it.  (Am I right here, Steve?  He was a buddy of yours, as I recall.)   And back then, for me it was ALL about the Jamoca Almond Fudge.

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But I had to be careful.  I had to show up at the Glencoe beach the next day swimsuit-ready.

These days it’s ALL about the coconut.

The old Swenson’s Ice Cream Parlor that lived in the basement of the MGM Grand in Las Vegas used to have the BEST Coconut ice cream cone ever.

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But when the craving strikes now I head over to Windy City Sweets on Broadway to put it right.

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Well, I think that’s enough for today. I’ve got an ice cream headache.

And this will be my last blog post until Sunday, July 31, Dear Readers.  I am having my right eye cataract surgery and I need time to get back into focus.  (The left one is doing great, btw.)

And if eating an ice cream cone makes you look like this, make mine a double.

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Posted in food, Ice Cream, pop culture | 24 Comments

“Allons enfants de la Patrie”

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Bonjour, mes amis.  It’s Bastille Day and those are the Marseillais volunteers sculpted on L’Arc de Triomphe.

It seems comme il faut to discuss La Belle France aujourd’hui.

And my daughter, Natasha.

When she was sixteen, Natasha wanted to study French in summer school.  Her school, St. George’s, made all the arrangements.  For seven weeks she would live with a local family and take classes en franÇais at L’Université de Caen.

Author’s Note:  I can NOT get the cedille under the small “c.”  I’ve tried and tried.  Quelle dommage.  Excusez-moi.

It sounded parfait and ma belle fille bid us au revoir and headed for her rendez-vous with toutes les choses franÇaises.

Her first communiques home sounded enthusiastic.  She had been placed with a family with two teenaged children right around her age.  Madame was a member of the Grey Poupon family and so mealtimes were bound to be delicieux.

But j’ai fait une erreur.

Madame was a miser who grudgingly doled out one see-through slice of jambon at each meal.

And the kids desperately wanted to learn English.

Hélas.

Natasha found herself speaking English all of the time and starving to death.

(She did manage to console herself with glace et fromage, however.)

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I was not a happy camper.  I hadn’t spent all those francs for her to brush up her English and not pick up any French customs to boot.

And plus Ça DID change because she was getting well…what’s the politically-correct term here?

Oh, I know.

Plump.

WEIGHT WATCHER’S SIDEBAR:  I never said une mot. Natasha came home and lost all the kilograms she had put on gorging on chèvre and Berthillon’s ice cream.  She may have ditched the excess baggage forever but she has never lost her taste for those Frenchified delights.

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Natasha would call home periodically to whine.  Madame was keeping her hungry, the kids were brats who only pestered her to tell them about the états Unis, and she missed her amis.  Her vie was definitely not en rose.

But I tried to look on the bright side.

“Natasha, dites-moi.  Yesterday was Bastille Day.  That had to be fun.  What did you do?”

“We didn’t celebrate it,” was the firm reply.

“What do you mean ‘we didn’t celebrate it?'” I asked.

“Madame is a member of le gratin.  You know.  The French nobility.  We ignored it,” sniffed Natasha Antoinette.

Mon Dieu.  A Gallic-Anglo cultural exchange at last.

Let ’em eat cake, I guess.

Vive La France.

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Posted in Bastille Day, France | 7 Comments

Ellen’s Web

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AUTHOR’S NOTE:  Caution.  If you’re a vegan or keep kosher, you may want to skip this one.

Hope you had a glorious Fourth of July, Dear Readers.  I had a wonderful three day weekend jam-packed with fun, friends and family.

And food.

Which brings me to this post…

When I was a little girl, I got a very special gift.

It was this.

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First Edition Collector Sidebar:  It will probably come as no surprise that from the time I was about six, I read voraciously and coveted books greedily.  And the VERY first thing I would always do with a new arrival was to rip off the dust jacket and throw it away.  I did this to make the book “mine.”  A dust jacket made the book look like it belonged to the library.  Alas, now that I am a grownup collector, I know what a sin this is.  Hence most of my treasured book collection is missing a very important part of its appearance.  (And value.)  Oh well.  C’est la vie.

Published in 1952, Charlotte’s Web was a seminal book for me.  I had always been dog and horse crazy.  E.B. White’s captivating story and Garth Williams’ enchanting drawings now made me want to go live on  farm.

When I got Charlotte’s Web, I was the exact same age as eight year old Fern.  And I, too, longed to hang out with White’s barnyard animals like she did.  The stuttering geese, the patient draft horses, the wooly sheep, even Templeton the rat-villain, seemed like creatures worth getting to know.

And then there was Charlotte.

Clever, confident, a little blood-thirsty- a realist with a knack for coming up with just the right word at just the right time.

And finally, the hero of the piece.

Wilbur.  The pig.

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Wilbur was the runt of the litter and the book opens with Fern’s father heading to the barn with an ax to do away with him.  Fern intervenes and rescues him, but the rest of the book deals Wilbur’s justified existential fears and his friends in the barnyard collective efforts to save his bacon.

My sympathies were firmly on the side of the pig and I was always relieved when their mission was accomplished and Wilbur went on to live a long and happy life.

Until last Sunday.

When I went to my first ever pig roast.

Like my book, the event took place on a wonderful old farm in West Brooklyn, Illinois.

Never heard of it?  Me, neither.

It is 96.5 miles west of Chicago in Lee county and was founded in 1894.  The population is 142 and has a total area of 0.11 square miles.

The farm must take up all of it.

A picturesque white frame house shared its stately turf with barns, cornfields, flower gardens, a beautiful pool, nine platinum Labradors, a few assorted other dogs, and children of all ages.

In one of the barns there was a groaning board of food.

Salads of every description, fried chicken, meatballs, homemade pies, cookies, cakes, brownies, chocolate-covered pretzels, ice cream…

And the pièce de resistance

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Yep.

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And he was delicious.

Let’s hope his name wasn’t Wilbur.

Fern would never forgive me.

Good to be back, Dear Readers.

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Posted in Children's Literature, Cooking, E.B. white, holidays | 7 Comments

Graceland

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Author’s Note:  Dear Readers, this will be my last post until Sunday, July 10.  Next week I’m having the first of two cataract surgeries and I don’t want the pressure of being Mr. Magoo and having to type on a keyboard.  Wish me luck and hope all of you all have a Red, White and Blue Fourth of July.

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And now a very belated Congratulations to the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins.  Champions of the 2016 Stanley Cup.  What a season!  What a cliffhanger of a finish.  Great, great hockey.

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The Penguins’ big victory got me thinking about birds and that got me reminiscing about this…

When he was ten, my son, Nick, longed for a parakeet.  For months he carefully studied all the candidates the Wilmette Pet Center had to offer.

Each week he would scrutinize the birds for color and personality.  Dollars were dutifully saved and finally, the great day arrived when Nicky triumphantly pointed to a dapper specimen with a lemon-colored head and bright green body.

Money exchange hands and the bird was boxed for the ride home.

Nicky was bursting with plans, dreams and career goals for his protege.  With a BIG future in mind, he christened the parakeet “Elvis.”

We went up to Nicky’s room and I got the cage out.

As a former owner of Pete the parakeet (when I was about eight) I wanted to make the delicate transfer maneuver from the box to the cage.

But Nicky begged.

“Please, Mom, let me do it.  He’s my bird and I want to do everything right from the start.”

I good-naturedly gave in to his demands and handed him the box with Elvis in it and the empty cage.

But, as Nicky tried to put the bird in his new home, the parakeet wriggled out of his newbie grasp and in a blind panic, flew around the bedroom.

Right into the wall.

Dazed and stunned, the bird let us pick him up and place him in the cage.  That ‘thunk” when he hit the wall had sounded ominous so we watched him closely.

Elvis looked ok when we covered his cage for the night.

In the morning, Elvis had left the building.

Nicky was beside himself.

The shock- it had all happened so fast- the excitement of the car ride home, the joyful christening, the careful preparation of the new cage, and then, the mad dash for freedom ending with fatal results- had completely unnerved him.

“I killed Elvis, Mom,” Nicky sobbed.  “I let him escape and now he’s dead and it’s my fault.”

“No, Nicky.  It was an accident.  You didn’t hurt him on purpose.”  I tried over and over agin to console him but I wasn’t much help.

Poor Elvis.

Poor Nicky.

Poor Mom.

An hour later Nicky was still wiping the the tears away as he ran for the school bus.  Klara, our housekeeper, was heartsick, too.

“Elvis was so cute,” she sighed.  “And I’m worried because Nicky is so sad.”

(Here’s Klara last October fussing over my grandson, Sam- The Next Generation.)

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It was raining but I went downstairs for a shovel.

“Come on,” I called to Klara.  “We’re going to give Elvis a great funeral!”

We buried him in the woods of our backyard in a small hole lined with rose petals.  During the nondenominational service, we praised his good looks and his fierce dedication to freedom.

We concluded the ceremony by singing “Born Free” and “Rockin’ Robin.”

We covered the little grave with leaves and more roses, and we made a marker so Nicky could visit it when he came home from school.

But the empty cage still sitting in Nicky’s room look so forlorn.

I hightailed it over to the pet store to replace the late Mr. Presley.

The friendly salesgirl remembered me.

“Weren’t you in yesterday?” she asked.

Feeling every inch a bird murderer, I related the sad tale of Elvis’s untimely demise and explained, that even no other bird could ever take his place in our hearts, I wanted to buy a new bird for my genuinely grieving son.

“I’m going to get the manager,” she said.

“Please don’t.”  I was embarrassed.  “I just want you to help me pick out a parakeet with similar markings.”

But over my protests she found the manager and explained that Nicky’s bird had died after only one day.

She listened carefully

“How old is your boy?” Barbara, the manager, asked kindly.

“He’s ten and he’s so upset,” I answered.

“Of course he is and I can well understand it. Please take a new bird at no charge.”

Now I was really mortified.

“I can’t do that,” I protested.  “It wouldn’t be right.  It’s wasn’t your fault. We were careless and the bird had an accident.  Please let me buy another one.”

“No,”  she stood firm.  “You must have another bird immediately.”

Then she handed me her card and said, “Tell your son if wants to talk about the accident or discuss his worries or concerns about the new bird, he can call us any time or come in. We’d be glad to counsel him.”

I was deeply touched by her compassionate response to our family crisis.  I gratefully picked out a new bird and walked out of the store.

When I got back home. the rain had stopped and I could have sworn that I heard “Blue Suede Shoes” somewhere up above me.

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Posted in Childhood, pop culture, Wilmette | 21 Comments

Punchlist

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Just a short post today, Dear Readers.  I just don’t have the time.

I beg your indulgence.  I didn’t know – but I bet (sadly) many of you did- that there is SO much to do after a parent dies.

Ever since the hospital called at three in the morning last week, my brother Kenny and I have been on a whirlwind tour of errands, phone calls and things to wrap up.

I don’t remember being this busy after my father passed away.  Maybe because my mother was still alive and so much of the legal stuff etc. just reverted to her.

But this time, what a difference.

There is real estate to sell and de-clutter.  There are banks, lawyers and stock brokers to visit. There are decisions to make about EVERYTHING from who gets the big screen televisions to what do we do with her handmade needlepoint tapestries?

(And if you know anybody in the market for a moody, sullen oil-painted portrait of Moo Moo, just let me know.  We’re asking $1,000,000.  OBO.)

And then there is the emotional exhaustion to deal with.

Eating?  Eh. Not so much.

Sleeping?  Fuhgeddaboudit.

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Mourning? I’m too busy with the minutia of death and the pressures of making right decisions.

And then there are the photographs and letters.

Boxes and boxes of them- most unseen since childhood.

Some are great and bring back floods of happy memories.

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Others?  Not quite so much.

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This picture opened up a whole can of conflicting emotional worms.

Sigh.

Scary feeling booby traps are lurking within every box, closet, photo album and stray envelope and I don’t have the energy to deal with them right now.

(Or maybe ever.)

Well, gotta go.  My brother is picking me up and we’re off to meet with Fran, the lady who’s going to efficiently dispose of a lifetime of Moo Moo’s stuff.

Thank goodness I have Kenny.

He always makes it better.

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Posted in Parents | 14 Comments