Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Self-Discovery on the Genealogical Highway

For more than a year now (as many of you know) I have been ambling down the genealogical highway, in search of stories of my family's history and knowledge of the times in which they lived.

My mother was born in this house that still stands in our city.
This quarter's focus on Modern Creative Life is "Selfies." Here's how the theme is described in its submissions page:

What does it mean to examine one’s self? Can self-portraits – and all versions of that such as memoir, personal essays, and such – heal us and help us grow as creatives? How do we make the space for blank canvases and blank pages if we ignore our need to create? Can we expect to fill those pages and canvases with our creations if we dive deeper into who we are?

Part of living a creative life is the understanding that we must refill our own wells in some way on a regular basis, otherwise, we find ourselves resentful of our own lives. Without the time or space to pursue our creative ways, we will burn out. Our souls demand that we uphold the responsibility of using our gifts. So how does looking at ourselves help us or hurt us?

Taking this road trip through history has been and continues to be a journey of discovery. But it isn't just names, dates and birthplaces I've discovered. I've also learned some stories about my ancestors and -- perhaps more important -- something about myself.

I'm sharing that in the current issue of Modern Creative Life right HERE. I hope you'll stop by and read it.

Which one do you think is my mom?
And if you, too, are on that journey, I encourage you to consider -- how has it changed you? How has knowing about your ancestors' lives affected how you feel about your family, your ancestors or you, yourself.

When we found this photo of our grandmother, we realized how much she looked like one of my cousins.
Not every story is pretty or happy. Hard decisions had to be made and some were heartbreaking. But so many are inspiring.

And if you haven't taken that journey (and I know -- many who read this blog haven't even considered looking into their past) I offer these suggestions for the "just in case" day that you take this journey on.

Eight Tips for Your Future Geneology Journey

  •  Ask questions of your parents while they are here -- or your grandparents? Even better. Write it down somewhere and let someone know where it is. And consider printing it out -- electronic documents have a bad way of getting deleted or lost in a hard drive crash!
  • Put labels on the backs of old photos while people are still around to identify them. 
  • Get a file and toss in documents like funeral handouts with birth and death dates, newspaper clippings or obituaries of family members.
  • If you have oral history on "old media" (cassette tapes, etc.) transcribe them or note key points, even if you keep the original. And of course back up electronic documents.
  • If you have old family Bibles or cookbooks, check inside for notes or newspaper clippings. They often have birth/death dates and if you are lucky like me, you'll find a newspaper clipping describing your great grandparents' wedding reception!
  • Remember, it's not just "all about me" but it's all about them, so before you throw out your sister's diary or your mother's old calendar -- all stuck in a box in the basement -- or a postcard sent from afar, check for the stories. 
  • And finally, remember the line I first heard in "The DaVinci Code." "History is written by the winners." Stories "evolve" over time (usually for the better!), particularly those shared through oral history. Get as close to the original source as possible. Save the wills and legal docs long after the scores are settled. They are part of the story.

And then when you're ready to roll, your job will be loads easier than mine!

I never would have researched the fascinating story of the confectionery industry in 1800s Buffalo if I hadn't looked into the stories of my great grandfather.
Here's the link to my article on MCL -- A Journey of Self Discovery through Family History

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Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Mr. "One"derful

Today is our Baby Grand's first birthday, but we got the party going early!

Our group of six grandparents, two great grandparents, one aunt, two uncles, two baby cousins, a great aunt and uncle and cousin removed or seconded (I should know this) gathered to party hearty!

Of course this was the star of the day. (And if you don't like cute baby pictures, sorry -- but I'm shameless!)

Of course we all had loads of family pictures taken...

...and Grandpa play...

... snacks...

....and cake. A cake bigger than the birthday boy!

And the toes did get a bit of frosting on them but no one minded.

It was finger-lickin' good.

Really good.

So good, in fact, that it required a very big swig of milk!

The hit gift of the day? A plastic slide. Highly recommended for a good time.

It's hard to believe that a year ago he looked like this.

And now, I'm not sure he's a Baby Grand -- he's a Grand Little Boy!

The fun has only just begun.

Woo hoo!

Keep climbing, Little Guy -- you'll have mountains to climb someday. May as well start climbing up the slide!

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Short and Sweet: A Shortbread Recipe

The rains here appear to have stopped -- or at least stopped in my basement. I've got to fix that leak before spring! But as I write this, parts of our city are on flood watch and/or evacuation notice.

Rick and I went to Old Town for lunch the other day and to check out the river. If you look at the photo below, see the ramp in the middle of the photo on the center/right, just to the left of a bare tree?? Well, that should be WAY out of water -- it's part of our river trail for walkers and cyclists.

This was sort of a puzzler. A tree with buoys and floats on it. Apparently it has something to do with canoers are a warning but the tree holding it up came out and is floating.

And I wouldn't want to be the people whose basement or ground floor was on this lower level.

I have a feeling they're doing some major clean-up about now.

But the pizza was nice and crisp! A great day to lunch out and check out our city.

Now, for something sweet! A number of you asked about the shortbread recipe I used and the molds.

Here's one of the molds. The are made by Brown Bag Cookie Art and I'm sure there are others. They are a nice stoneware, easy to maintain and clean. I can't tell you how these recipes would work in a vintage mold. I suspect the prep might be a little different but never having used an "original," I'd check another source.

If you don't have a mold you could probably roll/pat this out about a half inch thick, give or take, and use a cookie stamp.

Classic Shortbread

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and use cooking spray in your mold.

Cream 1/2 c. butter (at room temp) and 1/3 cup unsifted powdered sugar.
Add 1/4 t. vanilla
Work in: 1 c. unsifted flour

Press the shortbread into your mold and prick with a fork (which I forgot to do and it was fine). I tend to use my fingertips to gently pull the dough away from the edge just a bit, which I think makes it easier to unmold.

Bake 30-35 minutes or till lightly browned. Cool the shortbread in the pan for 10 minutes. Then loosen up the edges with a knife and turn pan onto a wooden cutting board. Immediately cut into serving pieces while it's still warm.

The Ginger version I also made has the same procedure and timing but slightly different ingredients. And this gets a little browner.

1/2 c. butter and 1/4 c. light brown sugar, mixed
Add 3/4 t. ginger (personally, I didn't think this was enough)
1 c. flour and
1 Tablespoon of cornstarch.


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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

It's Raining. Hard.

So, we had all this snow.

Then it rained. This is the rain in Paris, 2012, looking out a window at the Louvre. It's actually kind of pretty.

We got used to that rain -- it rained every day we were there.

I look at the photo below, taken at Montmartre Cemetery with our blog friend Peter (and if you love Paris, check out Peter's Paris.) There's something extra sad and beautiful about a cemetery in the rain.

There is nothing beautiful about my basement in the rain. The ground is frozen (or at least was, I'm not so sure about now) and it's leaking inside. I will not show you a photo because as little as I get embarrassed about a lot of stuff I probably should, I would definitely be embarrassed for you to see the basement. Instead, I'll share the one who doesn't seem to mind the rain -- because she isn't mopping it up and wringing out towels (because the washer and dryer are both broken -- don't start me.)

It may all be gloom and doom today but in the long run, not so bad. I've been painting a bit -- lots of springy bookmarks, which are good training for bigger pieces.

Here's a start of a collection! They still need their ribbons at the top.

And practicing my winter trees. This one needs work, but I did it based on a Leslie Frehling tutorial HERE for my painting pals.

Before Valentine's Day I made a few of these very cute lace hearts I'd seen on loads of your blogs! I thank MANY of you for the inspiration.


And I made Rick a Valentine's Day book -- a poetry book of poems from our year.

Pretty simple art, but loads of fun.

I needed a little color in the house. First I went for the gold!

Then the purple. Do you sense a Mardi Gras theme here?

And I baked shortbread cookies for Valentine's Day using my molds. The one on the left is regular shortbread, the right is ginger shortbread and hence a little darker.

I ended up dipping the triangles in chocolate.

Then I added coconut to the rest of the dipping chocolate for a few treats.

And all was good!

I hope it stops raining soon because otherwise you'll never hear from me again. I'd like to think this rain is the start of Spring.

But when you live in Michigan, you know you're still dealing with this!

Keep cozy. And dry.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Making Rosettes with Betty

Remember that big snow from this post? Well, those photos were taken a couple days after the big snow when the roads were plowed and the sky was blue. But on that very day, after the first 10 inches or so, Rick and I went out to a wonderful dinner!  And we got to help!

We met Doug and Betty on New Year's Eve and they invited us all to a winter dinner. Oh, so good with white chicken chili and salad, bread, wine and dessert. And we were going to help make the dessert!

When Betty came to New Year's she brought a tray of beautiful rosette pastries (below) and we were all wanting to learn how to make these crunchy cookies. So, Betty taught us! This may be old news to some of you, but join us in the kitchen.

First, you heat the oil to 350 --

-- and keep an eye on the temperature with the candy thermometer. You don't want it too hot -- or too cold. Just like Mama Bear.

Then you mix up this batter...

...and get out this handy thing! (Which, I am told, is available at World Market and probably a zillion other places including Amazon.)

So, you take the rosette iron...

...and dip it in the oil, empty. Then dip it in your batter. Not all the way, just up to the top.

Then you put it in the hot oil.

In a very short time it will loosen up and help it off the iron with a chopstick, like Kate is doing here.

Then let it stay in the oil till it's the desired amount of brown-ness for you. Mark liked his a little darker.

All this you do with an eager and very interested audience!

Well, not everyone is that interested.

After you remove them from the oil, place on paper towels to drain grease and dry a bit.

The sprinkle with powdered sugar -- perfect for our snowy night!

And serve! The rest of Betty's dessert included a delicious slice of grilled pineapple and ice cream.

There was another part of the evening that was special to me. Betty's cat, Max.

Max bears a more than striking relationship with the late, great Stimpy. That's Stimpy on the left and Max on the right. I can't even put their photos in the same file because I'm not sure I could tell them apart, save for the background!


Stimpy was my first cat-boy and a wonderful animal. And, if you remember my Valentine post, Stimpy is responsible for my meeting Rick!

I'm convinced of the nine lives theory (even the timing worked out!). Happy to see my boy again, in new form and with a wonderful home.

It was a night to remember! Thanks, Betty and Doug!

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