angels, Archdiocese of Chicago, Bucktown, Chicago, dome, historic church, nave, pipe organ, Polish cathedral style, Polish church, prayer candles, Roman Catholic, Saint Mary of the Angels, stained glass
On my last trip to Chicago, my father took us to the cemetery where many of his relatives and ancestors are buried. It is a Polish Catholic cemetery, and most of the names on the headstones are of Polish origin. There is a huge Polish community in Chicago, second only to New York City in the United States. My ancestors erected a monument at their plot when the first family members were buried there in 1917. Our family monument looked very much like these. Each celestial angel is slightly different..
Unfortunately one Halloween several years ago, vandals disgraced and damaged many of the monuments, including that belonging to my family. My great-aunt was so dismayed at its new appearance, she commissioned a new monument to be erected in its place. There are other monuments in the cemetery, amazing works of art from a century ago. Some were untouched, and unfortunately others weren’t so lucky.
This one from 1908 especially caught my eye. It is a giant oak tree trunk carved of stone, a broken limb hanging down. It is complete with a squirrel and three baby birds in their nest, and roses and ferns at the base. I’m sure there is personal significance to all of these details. And I love that the angel on top is looking off to the sky with a peaceful expression, as opposed to down at the ground like the other angels in the cemetery. What a masterpiece, probably all completed by hand at the time. In looking at the photo, I just realized there is an actual oak tree behind the monument! I wonder which came first..
The vandals also put their mark on it..
I can’t imagine what would possess a person to actually scrape off the image of someone’s face that has stood the test of time, and whose loved ones may still come to pay their respects. Possess might be the operative word. Maybe they were possessed by an evil spirit that Halloween night! Who knows, I just hope they have seen the error of their ways since then.
I love genealogy research, and on this visit I was able to photograph the headstones of my family. My mother also found a headstone with one of our family surnames that we had never seen before, with a person completely unknown to us. So I have more research to do!
I wonder if my ancestors thought, almost one hundred years ago, that they would be visited by their great-great-great grandchildren after they were gone. I could almost feel them smiling down proudly on us all that day.
1935 garden, arbor, begonias, Buddha, cannas, Cape Cod, cherubs on planter, Chicago, Chinese stool, daylilies, dove, garden in the city, grapevine, hydrangeas, nest, North side of Chicago, O'Hare Airport, paradise in the city, pine trees, reflection garden, secret garden
My parents live in Chicago, on the North side of the city. They still live in the same house I grew up in, a stately white and black Cape Cod built in 1935, with a garden that is huge for city standards.
It feels like a secret garden to my children and me. There are so many different spaces to hide, so many things to see. In summer you can hear the drone of locusts and see the glowing neon flashes of fireflies at night. In winter the snow blankets the pine branches and arbor like frosting. Sure you can hear the occasional roar of planes from O’Hare Airport overhead, and an ambulance, police car or two. But it is those sounds I grew up with and actually miss at my quiet suburban Atlanta home.
The garden has elements from when the house was built, and my parents have been cultivating it since they moved in almost 40 years ago.
She also created what she likes to call a “reflection garden” in a shady spot next to the screened terrace. The Buddha statue must have attracted new life because birds dropped seedlings and different species of pines just grew around him. There is also a little monument in honor of Cleo, our family Dalmatian. My mother added the begonias for color, and they are thriving in the dappled light..
My parents’ garden is a little piece of paradise in the city. I feel so fortunate that we can still share it with my children, hopefully for years to come. When the day arrives that we will have to part ways with it, I will close my eyes, listen to the wind chimes and hear the doves cooing, and be right back there again.
333 Wacker Drive, boat ride, Buddy Guy, Chicago, Chicago Fire Department boats, Chicago harbor lighthouse, Chicago River, Chicago River lock, Chicago skyline, Chicago tourism, Chicago water taxi, family vacation, John Hancock Building, July, Kennedy family, Lake Michigan, Lyric Opera, Marina City, Merchandise Mart, Navy Pier, pedestrians on Chicago bridge, summer vacation, summer weather, Sweet Home Chicago, Tribune Tower, Trump International Hotel & Tower, Wendella Boat Rides, Willis Tower, Wrigley Building
Forget San Francisco, I just left my heart in Chicago. My children and I just returned from a visit to my hometown to see my family, and have fun in the big city as well. And fun we had!
My kids had never taken a Wendella Boat Ride for some reason, and my father really wanted them to experience that. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, as if he had ordered it for us. We really lucked out for mid-July when there could be storms, intense heat and high humidity. It was the perfect sunny mid-70s weather to sail down the Chicago River, Lake Michigan, and enjoy amazing views of the city towering all around us.
Top of Tribune Tower jutting out from above the steps leading to the Wendella Boats..
Lyric Opera building.. my parents had season tickets when I was growing up. I was able to attend a few times with my father when my mother couldn’t. It is incredible..
Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower).. we attempted to go to the Skydeck at the top but there was an hour long wait and we were pooped after a long day.. it will have to wait until our next trip. It was the tallest building in the world until 1997. Now it is the second tallest building in the US and the eighth tallest in the world..
Merchandise Mart.. when built in 1930 it was the largest building in the world at 4 million square feet! The Kennedy Family owned it for fifty years and recently sold it for a whopping $550 million!
Chicago skyline from Lake Michigan.. the famous John Hancock building has the two antennae..
Chicago Water Taxi.. we got to take one later, first time ever for me!
I miss Chicago and my family the moment I leave. They will take good care of my heart until I return. After all, it is the city of big shoulders and my sweet home..
A few nights ago my little girl woke up at midnight, sick with a stomach virus. I will spare you the details. But as I was sitting with her in my bathroom, I asked my husband to go downstairs and get her a glass of water. Instead of grabbing one of the clean glasses out of the dishwasher, he took an old mug from the cabinet, probably because he was still half asleep. I had to laugh when he handed it to me. It was my grandfather’s mug from as long as I can remember.
My Grandma and Grandpa had two coffee mugs, one labeled “HIS” and one “HERS.” I assume they were a gift, unless they actually did buy them in Arkansas. I will have to ask my father if they took any road trips there when he was growing up. I know they followed route 66 out West from Chicago one summer, but I never heard about any trips to the South. The mugs are labeled “Hot Springs Pottery Arkansas” on the bottom. After doing some research online I found that they were made by the Dryden pottery company. My grandparents probably obtained them in the late 1950s or 1960s, as Dryden moved from Kansas to Arkansas in 1956. I was fortunate enough to end up with my Grandpa’s mug after both he and then my grandmother passed away. I don’t know who has the “HERS” mug, but I’m sure someone in my extended family does. My grandparents used these mugs every day for their coffee, morning and afternoon.
There was something strangely comforting about seeing the mug that night. In some way I felt like my grandfather was there with us, trying to make my daughter feel better. I was sixteen when my grandfather had a stroke, although in my memory I felt much younger. He was in a nursing home for several months until he finally passed away. The first time I saw him in the condition he was in, I couldn’t take it. I turned around and started to cry, but I made myself turn back to him, and grabbed his hand. I rubbed his hand with my thumb, back and forth, to let him know I was there and that I loved him. A single tear rolled down his cheek. In that moment I felt that he was trapped in a paralyzed body, but he knew I was there, and shared my love and my pain.
The mug is so out of place in my kitchen. I don’t have any other pottery, or dark colored dishes. My kitchen is very black and white, a mix of classic and modern design. But every time I look at the mug’s muddy color, the glaze, the rounded edges, and especially the word “HIS,” it makes my heart smile and think of my grandparents.
"L" train, Appalachian Mountains, Atlanta, bridge, car lights, Chicago, Chicago skyline, Christmas decorations, Christmas tree, city lights, Daley Center, expressway, falling snow, fog, forest preserve, Kentucky, Magnificent Mile, Michigan Avenue, Museum of Science & Industry Chicago, photography, road trip, Skyway, snow, stone, sunset, Superdawg, Tennessee, trees, Tribune Tower, Wrigley Building
We just returned from a road trip to visit my family in Chicago. Chicago will always be my home, wherever I happen to be living. The visits are never long enough and are always bittersweet. The drive from Atlanta to Chicago took us about ten hours, with a few short pit stops. The adrenaline began to flow as we approached the city on the Skyway at sunset. When that massive sparkling Chicago skyline came into view, I could feel the electricity and excitement of the city in my veins. Some of the photos are from my iphone, but most are from my new camera. You will find links to some of the places we visited after the photos..
chocolate sprinkles, Christmas, elf in drag, Elf on a Shelf, Elf on a Shelf ideas, hanging first ornament, Happy Meal elf, Hershey's Kisses, Marietta, piano, princess dress, refrigerator magnets, stuffed animals, Swedish Christmas people, toilet paper, wrapping presents
By popular demand, I have been asked to share some of my Elf on a Shelf ideas. It’s hard to come up with new ones every day and be creative. Pinterest is a great resource, but so far I have just had the inspiration pop into my warped mind. My children love our elf Fred Robert (not sure how they picked that name two years ago when we got him).
We were living in a suburb of Chicago at the time. But the Elf on a Shelf book was written by a mother and her daughter in Marietta, GA. Little did I know we would soon be moving there! They hit a gold mine because almost every child we know has one. The children love it, and I have to admit, I look forward to new and goofy ideas for him to do every night. It would be very easy to get carried away! I will post more photos every few days; I threw in a couple from last year too. I hope this helps if you are looking for ideas for your elf!!
Atlanta, Chicago, Christkindlmarket, Christmas tree, Elf on a Shelf, Fabrile Gallery, Frasier Fir, Fred Robert, German glass ornament, Horchow, mouth blown glass, Myth Busters, Pike Nurseries, Pottery Barn, Rockefeller Center tree, tree topper, vintage ornaments
Every year we select a fresh Christmas tree for our home. This year we waited until December 7th because we purchased one a little too early last year, and it was as dead as a door knob by Christmas. In order to prolong its life, I heard we should give the bottom a fresh cut when we bring it home and put it in water right away. It must have worked because the tree is alive and well and drinks almost a gallon of water a day! I feel like we have another pet. My children have named it “Tree the 2nd” because it is the second fresh tree we have had since moving to Atlanta. I think “Frasier” would have been an equally fitting name since it is a Frasier Fir.
When I was putting the lights on the tree this weekend, I caught my seven year old daughter hugging it. In response to me asking what she was doing she said, “trees have feelings too Mom.” She might be right! My son reminded us of a Myth Busters episode in which they did an experiment with live plants. They determined the plants that were talked to grew better than the control plants that were not! Unfortunately it didn’t matter if it was negative or positive speech. In any event, our tree is happy because it gets lots of love and attention. I do wish we could replant it when Christmas is over, but since it has no root ball, that is practically impossible.
Normally we put clear white lights on the tree, which I think looks elegant and beautiful. But sometimes I think multi-colored lights are more fun and the children enjoy them more. This year I decided to somewhat duplicate the lights on the Rockefeller Center tree and do multi-colored and white twinkle lights. Our tree looks nothing like the tree in NYC, but I think it’s very pretty.
Since this is the main tree in our house and we do have more whimsical ornaments on the little tree in the basement, I only use glass ornaments on the large tree. I have collected them over the years and inherited some from my grandparents and their parents before them. Here are some of my favorites.. our Elf on a Shelf “Fred Robert” hung the first one.
Multicolor Accordion Glass Ornament at Pottery Barn
Art glass ornament at Fabrile Gallery Chicago
Vintage 1940s glass ornament
Vintage Santa ornament, at least 100 years old
Vintage glass orb ornament, at least 100 years old
German glass multi-colored icicle ornament at Christkindlmarket Chicago
Silvery star tree topper (mouthblown glass) at Horchow
Our gorgeous tree was purchased at Pike Nurseries. They suspend the trees from the greenhouse ceiling and have the base in water so the stump does not dry out, prolonging the tree’s life. Love that!
Putting up a fresh Christmas tree and all the lights and ornaments is a lot of work every year, not to mention taking it all down. But it’s part of the magic of the season and I can’t imagine our Christmas without one. Just hearing my daughter say “it’s so beautiful!” over and over again makes it so worth it.
bread, bread loaf, breakfast bread, bungalow, cardamom, Chicago, crumble topping, Disney World, dough, family, Grandma, grandmother, leftover turkey sandwiches, nutmeg, pantry, Pyrex, recipe, recipe box, recipe card, script handwriting, Strelau, sweet bread, Thanksgiving, traditions, yeast
Every year without fail, my paternal grandmother would make a special bread for Thanksgiving, moreso for after Thanksgiving. Slightly sweet with ground nutmeg, cardamom and a sugary crumble topping, it was perfect for leftover turkey sandwiches, and toasted with butter for breakfast.
My grandmother passed away over five years ago, but I have carried on her tradition of making the Thanksgiving bread every year. Last year was difficult as it was our first Thanksgiving living in Atlanta. Who was going to make the bread for my family in Chicago?! I did and shipped them a loaf. This year was tricky too because we just returned from a trip to Disney World last night (look for a future blog post about that!). I made it this morning and shipped a loaf to my family this afternoon. There may not be any turkey for leftover sandwiches by the time they get it, but I doubt they will mind.
I believe the recipe came from my great-great grandmother, as the recipe card states. After my Grandma passed away, I was fortunate enough to receive her vintage recipe box. It is like gold to me. It immediately connects me to her. I love seeing her small perfect script handwriting before it got more shaky with age. The box and cards still smell like the wood and shelf liners of the pantry in her Chicago bungalow. I can close my eyes and picture myself back there again, sitting down in her tiny kitchen for a meal or dessert and coffee. Even when she was older and handicapped, she would insist on feeding us. She especially enjoyed cooking for me when I was pregnant. It was her way of taking care of me, and it gave her pride. My grandmother could be very stubborn and difficult at times, but she loved her family and traditions, and she loved to cook. I especially appreciate the part on the recipe card where it says “and beat real well for about 5 minutes.” I can hear her voice, and that is exactly how she would say it.
Instead of using Oleo as the recipe states, I use unsalted butter. I also preheat the oven to warm at 170F, then turn it off and leave the door open a few minutes (a trick my mother taught me). I let the dough rise in the warm oven with the door closed and it works every time. Not too hot, but warm enough for the yeast to do it’s thing.
Tradition is so important in a world full of constant change and evolution. I would like my children and their children to know the same foods and traditions that I experienced growing up, as well as my husband’s. They too can pass them on to future generations. At least I dearly hope they will.
I have so much for which to be grateful, including Grandma’s bread and the memories it brings. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!!
Grandma’s Thanksgiving Bread
2 packets yeast, 1 tsp sugar, 1/4 cup very warm water, 1/2 lb unsalted butter, 2 cups whole milk, 1 Tbs salt, 1 cup sugar, 1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg, 1 tsp ground cardamom, 2 beaten eggs, 8 cups sifted flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 4 Tbs cold unsalted butter
Preheat the oven to 170 F. Then turn off oven and open the door for a minute or two. Close the door to preserve heat. Add yeast and 1 tsp sugar to 1/4 cup very warm water and stir to combine. Set aside. Scald 1/2 lb butter and 2 cups milk in a saucepan. Into a very large mixing bowl, add salt, 1 cup sugar, nutmeg and cardamom. Add the milk and butter to the sugar and spice mixture and let cool to luke warm. When cooled, add the eggs and raised yeast mixture. Stir well. Add 8 cups sifted flour in small amounts, and beat “real well” for about 5 minutes. I use a KitchenAid mixer with a pastry hook initially to incorporate the flour until it is mostly combined. Then I turn it out onto the counter and knead it by hand for about 5 minutes. Place in a large bowl, cover with a clean cloth and let rise in the oven with the door closed until doubled in size, about 40 minutes. Punch the dough down, and place into two greased loaf pans. Cover them and let rise again in the oven, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and preheat the oven to 350 F. To make the topping, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1/4 cup flour, and 4 Tbs cold butter cut into pieces. I use a mini food processor and pulse to combine. The mixture will be in pieces and not smooth. Sprinkle the loaves with the topping mixture. Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour. Let cool on a rack. When cool enough to handle, remove loaves from pans and cool futher on rack. Slice and serve for sandwiches or toasted with butter, jam, or whatever you please ~