Sunday, March 26, 2017

Angels Watching Over Us

So, when the end is near, do you think your life flashes before you? What goes through your mind?

I never really thought about that question too much until last weekend when the end came perilously near. Rick and I were driving home from dinner with our friend Jan, who was in the front seat with Rick. We were headed home on a busy one way street, a Friday around 8:30. The road was busier than it sometimes is with cars in the lanes to our left, some to the right, when we saw a police car with its lights on, rushing down a perpindicular street just at the next light -- and going through the light.

The police car turned into our one-way street -- going against traffic. And then we saw it.

He was chasing another car, coming straight toward us in our lane, driving at an extreme rate of speed. The police car was in hot pursuit, again headed straight toward us.

We were within just a few feet of being slammed head-on when Rick swerved the car into the lane to our right. Fortunately, no one was there.

Without his quick reflexes I am confident that this would have been one of those blogs where people simply disappear and you always wonder. Are they ill? Are they traveling? Will they write here again? Did they just give up blogging?

Those of you who know me might send an email that would be unanswered. Others would simply give up.

I've thought a lot about that evening over the last few days. I think about it all the time. I've thought about how grateful I am for Rick's quick thinking, although I think it was more instinct than anything else. He learned, when racing bicycles on the velodrome, how to avoid collisions, as velodrome bikes don't have brakes. You swerve. Remember that one.

I've thought about how grateful I am there was no one in the lane into which we swerved. There was no time to look. That, too, could have been a crash and probably a debilitating one -- but not so fatal as the alternative.

I've thought about Lizzie, who would be expecting me home and no one realizing that she was there alone, hungry, wondering when her people would come feed her.

I've thought about being grateful that I had no unfinished business with people. No arguments outstanding. No bad will. And it reminded me that I should see more often the people I care about as our busy lives often fail to connect.

When I saw the headlight of the car coming toward us (one headlight was out) I was shocked but calm. No screaming. Until that very instant after when we were safe. And then I shook like a leaf.

All of us have had follow-up issues. We can't find anything about an arrest in the news, so what happened? This chase began in another county but why in the world would an urban chase involve the police chasing backwards on a busy one-way street? Is an arrest more important than the danger all the drivers in that area were faced with? For if that car had collided with us head-on, it wouldn't just be us that felt the aftermath. Without doubt cars would have careened into others and many people would have been hurt.

I truly believe that God, the universe -- call it what you will -- had more work for all three of us to do on this earth. What that work is, I don't know. Being kind? Helping others? Some great mission we've yet to discover?

I don't know. I probably never will. What I do know is that I will forever be grateful, thankful. I will value the life I live even more than I did before. I will continue to live each day in a way that if it was to be my last it would be the best it could be.

And yes, I've always believed in angels. And they were with us that night.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Let's Make an Easter Banner

Now that I've settled back from vacation, I'm getting into spring decorating mode! It's one of my favorite seasons to deck the halls because the colors are so fresh and lively -- and in Michigan, we need that! So before I left, I did a little crafting -- making an Easter Banner!

I started out with banner templates (Michael's -- on sale for $2.95) and went through my pile of papers -- scrapbook, wallpaper and some larger decorative sheets, cutting out triangles using the template and gluing them together. Then I punched holes in the tops.

I made the "medallion" by pleating this pretty multi-colored crepe paper (an old Dollar Tree find!). I stapled the first half of the crimping and then made a line of glue along the inside (crimping) edge and finished up.

Then using wallet-sized printouts from my online images collections (mostly from old Easter postcards), I cut circles which I trimmed down to better fit the medallion and glued them together.

What a pretty bunch of triangles!

I finished them off by adding a button at the point.

After arranging them by color and design, I added a pale blue ribbon from my stash to tie them together, leaving a long tail for hanging.

I run the ribbon through the back, up through the hole on one side so it is now on the front; knot it on the front and then put the long ribbon back through the hole -- and up through the hole of the next banner flag. Then knot, back through the hole to the back of that piece and up through the hole on the other side of the same piece, knot, through the hole and attach the next one.

OR you can knot in front and connect to the next banner triangle from the front. If you look at the two photos of completed banners below you'll see the difference of how they look depending on how you string them.

It sounds confusing but you really get a rhythm after the first! And there you have it -- a cheerful banner to get the season started!

Strung connecting the triangles from the front

If you want, you can go to town with glitter and more ribbons (I actually think I'll add a couple more ribbons to the ends of both of the banners I made), use other embellishments to glitz it up, depending on your theme!

Strung connecting the triangles from the back.
(Now it's time to get out the nests, bunnies and Easter Egg tree! Well, as you can see, one is already out!)

This post will link to Share Your Cup, Monday Social, Share Your Style and Pink Saturday as the links become available.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fudgies! And Three Recipes!

Here in Michigan we call people who visit the beautiful Mackinac Island (located in the Straits of Mackinac where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet) Fudgies.

Mackinac Island is know for its fudge (among other things, including a no-car policy, it's magnificent Grand Hotel and for being the setting for the film "Somewhere in Time.") Anyone who visits always seems to leave with a pound (or more) of fudge from one of the island's many shops.

Well, we make pretty darned good fudge in the lower part of the state as well. I decided that for our St. Patrick's Day dinner, I would make grown-up ice cream and candy. The result was my Bailey's ice cream, Luck of the Irish Cream Fudge and Paul Hollywood's soda bread.

I pulled the fudge recipe (originally called Irish Cream Truffle Fudge) from I'm going to print it here because my instructions are better than theirs!


Butter and 8x8 pan. (I did. It's too thick. Next time I'd use at least a 9x9 and I'd line it with foil or waxed paper for easier removal)

Melt 3 c. semisweet chocolate chips, 1 c. white chocolate chips and 1/4 c. butter in a double boiler.

HINT: Melt the butter first. It will help keep the chocolate from seizing up. You could do this in the microwave too, but I didn't have the nerve!

Use a mixer to ensure all is melted and shiny. Then add 1 c. Irish Cream liqueur (I used Bailey's), about a quarter cup at a time so it doesn't splash, as you continue to beat.

Then add 3 c. confectioners sugar -- again, a bit at a time, mixing, incorporating and then more.

Finally, 1 1/2 c. chopped nuts. The original recipe said to stir it in but I mixed because the fudge is thick and I wanted to be sure it was well incorporated.

Put into your pan, press a sheet of plastic over the top and smooth down.

The original recipe calls for a glaze. It's fine but I'm not sure I'd use it again. It does add to the thickness of the fudge.

Melt 2 T. butter, 1 c. semisweet chips, 1/2 c. white chocolate chips.

Using the mixer, add 4 T. Irish cream liqueur. Spread over the top and refrigerate till firm, at least a couple of hours.

This has HUGE yield! At least it did for me, because I made it in the 8x8 and it was so thick that I cut the pieces fairly thin. So far (and there is still a giant lump in the fridge with a good 25 pieces to it) i have had a yield of six dozen. A huge hit at our dinner and with the many friends who were on the receiving end of a delivery!


Are you a fan of the Great British Baking Show? I am. I love it and part of the reason are its judges, Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood, both noted bakers. Some of the PBS programs include master classes by Paul and Mary and this is where I first read of his soda bread recipe.

It's simple. But the directions on his site are not in good old American measurements and baking times, so I'll translate here.

250 grams white flour (this is about 2 cups)
250 grams whole wheat flour (about 2 cups)
1 t. salt
1 t. baking soda
1.7 cups -- I think that came to about 1 3/4 --  buttermilk (400 ml)

That's it. Mix it together, knead a bit, put into a round ball, cut all the way through the center crossways (see the video below) and bake at about 400 F for 30 minutes.  (200 C)

It's glorious. Here's how Paul does it.


I originally got this from my massage therapist, the Divine Sarah, and then Jenna at Painted Apron also featured a version. You saw this recipe in the last post, but here it is, a bit more complete -- just so they are all together.

Mix 1 pint heavy whipping cream to slightly stiff peaks (but not butter!)
Add 1 can sweetened condensed milk and beat again to peaks
Add 2 T. or a little more of the Baileys (or another flavoring) and beat again.
(If you want, you could then add fudge bits from the recipe above, mini chips or another add in).

Pour into a pan lined with plastic (mine was 7x11ish) and cover with plastic. Freeze. I served mine with grated semi-sweet chocolate.

This recipe makes quite a bit -- and it really is wonderful! I hope you try it and enjoy!

This post is joining up with Share Your Cup and Share Your Style, where you can find some delightful links to check out!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Hey there! It's Yogi Bear!

Like many children, the first movie I saw was animated, and like those of my generation, it was a Disney film, "Snow White." My mother says it totally freaked me out (she used different words, same idea.) I can remember a few -- "Cinderella," "Sleeping Beauty," "Tales of the South," to name a few, but mostly my animation memories, what I have, are of television. One of the key television producers of animation were William Hanna and Joe Barbera, Hanna-Berbera. They brought us Yogi Bear, Huckleberry Hound, Ruff and Ready, the Flintstones and the Jetsons, among others.

The second exhibit at the Norman Rockwell Museum was a tribute to Hanna-Barbera. It included many original animation cells, sketches and related products.

Did you have any favorites? I always liked Pixie and Dixie, the crazy mice who were pals of Huckleberry Hound.

For that matter, I enjoyed Huckleberry Hound himself. The cell below and the original sketches are both on display.

Here's a closer look.

Top Cat was another favorite. The cells are still vibrantly colorful.

When I think of Tom and Jerry, I often think of Jerry the Mouse dancing with Gene Kelly in "Anchors Away." But they were pretty big daytime stars, too.

Again, the original sketches appeal to me almost more than the finished cells because you can follow the thought process.

And then there was Rough and Reddy.

I never watched them but now I wish I had!

Of course, there were the Flintstones, with family comedy of the Stone Age and the Jetsons, the family of the future. I loved the Flintstones most.

They also were one of the earlier users of merchandising for movies -- toys, dolls, games... those were on display, too.

Of course, it all goes back to Yogi and Boo Boo. Yogi was a breakout character from the Huckleberry Hound series. He was one of several characters who had a collar and this was not only a character enchancement but a time saver for the animators. The collar let the animators keep the body static but the head was redrawn to indicate movement or speech. In doing so, they cut cut the number of drawings needed for a seven minute cartoon by 12,000. (Yes, not a typo. 12,000.) Yogi's nemesis was Mr. Ranger and his pal, Boo Boo. Considering himself "smarter than the average bear," he had a great fondness for snitching pic-a-nic baskets from campers.

 Anyone ready for a picnic?

And in case these images have reminded you of days gone by, enjoy!

Sunday, March 19, 2017

"I Love to Tell Stories in Pictures."

The Norman Rockwell Museum is located in the town of Stockbridge in the Berkshires of Western Massachusetts. If you are a fan of this remarkable artist, as I am, it's the place to be to not only learn more about the artist but to see many of his most famous paintings "in person." They remind of us a gentler time, and as I walked through I thought more than once that I wished that I was living in that gentler time -- although as you'll see, those times weren't perfect either, as he captured details of war and racial unrest and its affects on everyday people.

"I love to tell stories in pictures," he says in the video that highlights his life. It's something he does well and is greatly meticulous in doing so.

Take the photos above and below, for example. In the photo above, the first version telling the story of a little boy running away from home, you'll note that he is in a more polished restaurant with a state trooper. (You'll also note it is unfinished -- check out the detail on the stools and the runaway knapsack and compare with the photo below).

This one is completed -- but also more "realistic." The officer is now a town officer (that detail is told in the arm patch), the diner more something like you would find in a small town. This little guy has run away from home -- but hasn't gone too far yet. And chances are, this kindly officer will return him to his home, or the friendly fountain cook will give the child's mom and dad a quiet call for a pick-up.

One of his most famous paintings was done for "Look" magazine and documents Ruby Bridges on her first day of school after desegregation, begins escorted by U.S. Marshals. Note the smashed tomato on the wall.

Another in the series tells a story of a family discovering their new neighbors. Will the children become friends? One hopes so. Will the woman peeking out of the curtain in the upper left accept the new family? One can only hope that as well.

Rockwell often used his neighbors as models and frequently worked from photos. He also, as filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock did, often put himself in the story. In the painting below you see him bringing his artwork to the newspaper in Monroe County, Iowa, young and enthused.

Rockwell stories of daily life -- a couple getting a marriage certificate...

Detail from an enormous painting of a family at the doctor's office. This was painted during war time and you can see the doctor has someone serving.

The famous telephone tree! Do you think Lily Tomlin might have taken her Ernestine costume from this painting?

And one of my favorites -- "A Day in the Life of a Girl."

We also get to see his initial sketches for that painting.

Rockwell's career included working with Boy's Life Magazine (many of his scouting paintings are at the National Boy Scout Museum in Dallas through May 2016, after which the museum will be closed; you can see more on that HERE) and the collection at Stockbridge on this topic is minimal. But you'll see many of his popular Saturday Evening Post covers in a Cover Gallery.

It was fun to see this one in person, as well as note some of the authors featured on the various  covers -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie and many other famous names.

You'll also find large paintings done to illustrate stories in a variety of magazines, including this one. The story tells of a woman who takes her granddaughter on a trip into town to buy cloth for a dress. This one, as are several others in the collection, very long and narrow.

I loved this one. Always have, always will. The gentle details -- the make-up on the floor, the movie magazine, the doll tossed aside. This thoughtful study of the young girl resonates with heart and hope.

He also takes his gentle pokes at his own profession, everything from creative block... the study of art itself.

One of my favorites is actually a fairly small painting, though it is very long. It focuses on Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas.

It took Rockwell more than ten years to finish this painting and he had to add a 1960s car to update it from his original. Depicting a typical rural New England town, Stockbridge itself looks much the same.

The studio above the general store in the center of the painting was once Rockwell's studio, as was the little red building on the far right, nestled in the trees at another point in his career. You'll also see the Red Lion Inn on the right of the original photo of the full painting.

We decided to check out the town of Stockbridge after our visit (and I'll have a bit more about our visit to the museum in future posts, including the Hanna and Barbera exhibition and Rockwell's famous Four Freedoms.) We wanted to step into the Red Lion Inn, which you see on the far right of the full photo (up a couple of pictures!)

It's simply lovely. The kind of classic hotel that has nooks and crannies in the lobby and adjacent areas where you can play a game of chess, read a book or check out the art and interesting pieces of furniture and accessories.

I loved this big rocking horse!

If it wasn't mid afternoon, we might have stopped into the pub! It was charming and struck me as a classic Old English pub.

How I would have loved to go up those steps to a cozy room! Maybe someday.

There is much more to share but for now, settle into one of these paintings and make up your own story. What a writing prompt!

I'm sharing this post with Monday Social! Check out the delightful links.

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