Saturday, May 29, 2010


Every year on Memorial Day weekend, I visit my parents, aunts and uncles. I bring them flowers -- red geraniums, sometimes impatiens with it, just as my mom used to do. I carefully plant them in front of the tall granite memorial stone at the cemetery.

On cooler Memorial Days than this, I will pick the lilies of the valley that cover the hill right behind their graves and place them on the head stones. This year, I may bring some blooms from my garden at home. And pennies for my uncle Marty!

I've been doing this since I was a child, always accompanying my mom as she did the planting and shared family stories along the way. I've always found doing this peaceful and healing (apart from the days when we are swatting mosquitoes or steaming from the heat.)

It was always a history lesson when Mom and I went -- of my family, of our community, as we passed by the grave markers of civic leaders, like R.E. Olds, founder of the now also-deceased Oldsmobile. I remember when we were kids and so many would hold their breath when driving by a cemetery, being afraid of ghosts.

I never was. I felt they were safe places, filled with the remains of people who, for the most part, were probably well loved.

But that history lesson was so very local.

I got a different take on Memorial Day last year when I visited Normandy. (That's where most of these photos are from, along with two from a local cemetery and another from Paris.)

This is truly hallowed ground, and it is almost overwhelming to view the hundreds, the thousands of graves of those who lost their lives in the invasion more than 60 years ago. Even those who landed and made it home safely, those who are still alive, are so very old and frail now.

It was a truly sobering experience. And yet, so very beautiful, so tranquil.

But I think what is so sad is that war continues; young men still die fighting for our country. For other countries, too. There may not be other graveyards so large as this all targeted to men fighting in the Middle East, but they will still be in the spots like the one I visit to honor my parents.

There is an extraordinary sense of peace and loss when one walks between the graves at Normandy's American Cemetery. Was it the crisp white markers against the brilliant green grass? Or the deep blue sky? I know it isn't always blue...

Is it the view that so reminds us of the men who died here had to conquer?

Is it the cool cover of the memorial building that offers sanctuary?

Or the sense that all were welcome here? Perhaps for some, fighting against Hitler was even more personal than to others?

I'm not sure -- I only know that this experience made Memorial Day a little different for me.

I'll "go to work" as I emcee a recognition of veterans and and screening of PBS' "National Memorial Day Concert" in Jackson on Sunday evening. I'm sure we'll have a picnic or a cook out. We'll relax, thrilled to have a day off. But year, the holiday will be a bit sadder, as loss is fresher. And I'll think a little more broadly.

Happy Memorial Day. I hope yours is lovely.

And now for something completely different...

Please visit Chopsticks and String for look at a book on a favorite subject of mine -- Paris!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All About Bob

Our family is a lot sadder these days. On Friday -- and then, again, on Tuesday, we said goodbye to Bob Maley, our friend, our family. Family came from Missouri and Massachusetts, Tennessee and North Carolina, Minnesota and Michigan. We hugged each other, we cried, and we even smiled as we shared memories of Bob.

I first met Bob (and Rick's aunt, Carol) when I accompanied Rick to his cousin Eric's wedding a good twelve years ago. From the first meeting, he made me feel like I belonged. They both did. And that's something I never forgot.

In the time since, I've had some wonderful times with the Maley family -- gatherings at their cottage, the weddings of children Matt and Stephanie, and terrific Thanksgivings. Behind all this was Bob (and Carol's) energy, generosity and hospitality.

Bob and Carol were as much friends as family, with our age difference being much less than ten years. They weren't your typical aunt and uncle! Bob and Carol were our peers, and the relationship with them was so different than with my own aunts and uncles. So, we've lost our friend, too.

I say Bob-and-Carol almost like it's one word -- and indeed, to me these two seemed so ideally suited, such a team, it's hard to think of them separately.

During their 42 years of marriage, they traveled the world enjoying trips with friends and family, yet were divinely happy at their home and cottage with their kids, grandchildren and extended network of friends.

Whenever anyone dies young, before their time, we ask "Why?" And I don't think there's an answer -- or that we'll ever know what that answer is. I know only that there is an empty space in my extended family that was once filled with a smile, a joke, a good bottle of wine, a zest for life and living.

Bob's was a life well lived -- but it was too short a life. It was one of kindness, generosity and great humor. It was one of smiles. Bob loved the arts, and I fondly remember meeting Bob-and-Carol in Ann Arbor twice for dinner and a concert. He was a man of faith, a person of joy. To know he won't be at our future gatherings makes me sadder than I can almost bear.

Saturday night, after working the art fair, Rick made a lovely dinner. He had flowers on the table, picked from his yard, delicious chicken got off the grill, and asparagus with pasta.

Bob, an amateur winemaker, had given Rick some of his "Black Prince Winery" creations when we once visited.

We drank a toast "To the winemaker." It was a Chardonnay, cool and crisp and refreshing.

And he was at our table, joining us -- filling a big spot in our hearts.

Goodnight, sweet prince. And flights of angels sing thee to your rest.

Monday, May 24, 2010

It's a Festival!

Every May, usually on a partly-rainy or blowy weekend, all the art lovers in our community put on their comfy shoes (unless they wear their show-off sandals or have no feet problems at all!), raid their ATM, and head off to the East Lansing Art Festival.

WKAR is no exception and this year we were there with Super WHY!, ace public television super hero for the pre-school set!

Well, this year, apart from a bit of drizzly rain, fortunately while we were on break, Super WHY! had it HOT!

And yes, none of us dared complain about the heat, at least not too much in front of our Super WHY actor Bry, because we weren't wearing a foam-and-felt suit...With a VERY big (and heavy) head...

And very large shoes!

But the kids loved it, mobbing us as we walked between the changing room and our booth!

So did the adults! Root Doctor lead vocalist Freddie Cunningham and the wonderful Ms. Marge Mooney were pleased to pose.

Even other hairy costume characters wanted a photo!

All that costume-shepherding didn't give much time for shopping so on Sunday I was back. These are a few of my favorite finds! (Though I took out a few of the upcoming presents!)

One of the booths I love most is Detroit Class Company. Their colorful painted glasswear just makes me smile. I shopped there last year, and was hoping they were back. It might have been better if they hadn't!

I met -- after two decades -- a photographer whose work I published twenty years ago! Steve Gettle said I gave him his first published piece. He gave me one of his current ones -- this snowflake, which he makes using a microscope! You can see his amazing technique for this image here.

The woman who made these creatures from roving, Theresa, had me captivated as I watched her work. I wish she'd included her card and website.

Amazing how an armiture of pipe cleaners or styrofoam can evolve into charming critters. (And her sense of humor was wonderful.)

Of course, the festival is never complete without Crazy Richard, the Mad Juggler.

With an arsenal of old hippie jokes, a breezy routine and some downright good skill, he's always a crowd pleaser.

And not a half-bad fire juggler, either. As he said, with his hair, he has to be very good!

Needless to say, home to chill seemed like a very good idea.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

In the Hood

What's new in my neck of the woods?

Well, the Gypsy has a neighbor.

His name is Jasper and he seems rather sweet to me!

But note the ear position on my orange boy. You could say he isn't fond of his neighbor!

I've been to the greenhouse! One of my favorite places every spring. The herbs are planted!

Couldn't resist some flower arranging -- they were so pretty, I had to buy some. Amazing what one bunch of greenery, a single hydrangea bloom, and a bunch of tulips can get you! Really, the hydrangea was $1.99/stem. The greenery was $4.49.

I used the greenery with the tulips, hydrangea and lilies of the valley from my garden. The ferns were from the garden, too -- and so were the weeds! Creeping Charlie!

I think orange tulips are one of my favorites. They looked so pretty in this inexpensive fake-Asian vase!

Best color ever!

I just love this spring!

Our local art festival is this weekend and you'll find me working on Saturday, helping escort Super WHY! and hanging out at our booth! If you're in the area, stop by!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wine from Oregon

I get a tad jealous when Rick has a business trip that takes him to Portland. And I've heard that other parts of Oregon are equally wonderful. It's a spot on my "someday" list.

So, when our wine guide, Dick, suggested "wines of Oregon" as our theme for this past weekend's wine tasting, I was eager to see what was on the tasting menu.

Well, first comes the cheeses! Oh, all these blues went well with today's wines!

We started out with the whites -- the first was Montinore Estate's Gewurztraminer 2006 from the Willamette Valley. The first wine we sample is the standard from which I judge the others -- and most just couldn't compete.

This was delicious, fresh, bright, spicy but fruity and just delicious! And at $14.69, a little more than I like to pay -- but worth it.

Next up was a King Estate Oregon Pinot Gris, 2008.

They are the largest producer of pinot gris in the U.S. (in the "new world" it's "gris." In the old world, primarily Italian, it's "grigio." Basically the same grape, but a different way of producing the wine.) Aged in stainless steel for five months (I prefer stainless steel to oak; not everyone does), it had a 13 percent alcohol content -- pretty high for a wine. And it was delicious! Again, clean, crisp, fresh. It smelled glorious! I wrote on my notes, "I like this a LOT!" Price was $16.79.

Pretty much everyone wanted seconds on this -- "More! My favorite kind of wine!" said Clayton!

Then came the Erath Oregon Pinot Gris, 2008.

A good comparison -- same grape, same wine. This was good and more peppery than the King Estate, and at $13.99, less expensive. It was also dryer. But neither Rick nor I liked as well as the other.

The Adelsheim Willamette Valley Chardonnay 2006 was $22.69. I have, written on my notes: NO WAY. It was better than some chardonnay's, but not so good as the one that followed.

The A to Z Oregon Chardonnay 2007 was next. The name of this one bothered Rick and Roger -- it sounded generic. This one is produced by clones of grapes from Dijon.

The big discussion on this one was the smell. I thought it was fine. Cheryl said it smelled like animal pee (and she works at the Humane Society, so she knows her animal odors!). Others thought it had an odd smell, too. But I wrote "I like this!" on my notes. It was $14.39.

The Castle Rock Pinot Noir 2009 (Willamette Valley) was our first read -- "This is a wine worth putting on your table," someone said. There were some tasty tanins, spicy and it stuck with you -- a long finish.

At $11.49, it was the deal of the day. "Yea!" says everyone, in chorus!

Finally, we had a good River's Edge Pinot Noir 2007 from Umpqua Valley.

They emphasize a low-tech, hands-on approach utilizing batch fermentation and barrel aging and bottling. It definitely grew on me. Rick called this one "very good." (But one may need to filter it -- it had tons of sediment. At $19.99, I probably wouldn't get it. But I'm a cheap wino!

The hit of the day wasn't on our list -- but one that Dick pulled out called "Wrongo Dongo" -- the name itself is worth a purchase. So is the price -- $7.49.

This was our only wine that wasn't from Oregon, but from Spain. And at the price, it was worth buying a lot! About all I know on this one is that is was a red. And yummy and cheap!

As always, dinner follows.

My contribution this time was herbed cream biscuits from the Cook's Illustrated Baking Encyclopedia (and some Trader Joe's corn bread). Dick had ham and home made applesauce, Barb had a wonderful savory sweet potato dish with broccoli and we celebrated Roger's birthday with an ice cream cake!

Needless to say, we went home fat, happy and content!

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