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..
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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..
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 ~
birthday, birthday party, Candy Land, candy stickers, Chicago, child's birthday party, decorated fireplace mantel, decorated staircase, fruit scented gel pens, gerbera daisies, girl birthday party, glass candy garland, glitter, glitter gift bag, glitter notebook, hair band lollipops, Happy Birthday, helium balloons, Joffrey Ballet, Learning Express, Michael's Arts & Crafts, November birthday, Nutcracker Ballet, party favors, Pier 1 Imports, rainbow bracelets, sugar and spice, sugar plum fairy, Sugar Rush, Tchaikovsky, white tulips, Wreck It Ralph
Today we celebrated my daughter’s birthday with a little party for her friends at our house. It will probably be the last of its kind as she is getting older, and every year they are more exhausting! But the joy is in the details and planning, and most of all seeing the happiness on my daughter’s face.
November is a tricky time for a child’s birthday. The weather is unpredictable, and it’s wedged in between Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. Luckily it was an absolutely gorgeous 72 degree day.
When planning the party, I wanted to come up with a theme, which I don’t do every year. But as my daughter gets older, she is becoming more artistic and creative. She enjoys and appreciates the little things I do. This week I took my children to see the new movie Wreck It Ralph. In the movie was a video game called Sugar Rush, much like the board game Candy Land. It inspired me to create a sugary glittery party for my little girl. The land of the sugar plum fairy from Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet also popped into my head. So that was it. Once I had my daughter’s enthusiastic seal of approval, it was full steam ahead!
I was a busy bee last night decorating the fireplace mantel with balloons, streamers, twinkle lights and glass candy garlands. And we can reuse the garlands at Christmastime!
The gift bags had to be equally sweet and sparkly, as well as their contents.. glittery little notebooks, fruit scented gel pens, hair band lollypops tied with glittery ribbon, rainbow colored bracelets, and candy of course.
I also tied the top of each bag with adorable fabric cupcake ribbon..
For the dining table I used a white plastic tablecloth, which I normally don’t like to do. But it makes clean up a lot easier when you are dealing with eight very excited messy little beauties having lunch! They also decorated their own cupcakes. Enough said! I put glittery birthday confetti down the center of the table, and hot pink gerbera daisies with white tulips in the center.
The party was a success, as evidenced by my daughter declaring it was the BEST DAY EVER! I am completely exhausted, but it was worth it. I don’t think I will be doing this next year, which makes it bittersweet. But however we celebrate her future birthdays, what matters most is the joy they bring her. Happy Birthday to my sweet baby girl!
And if you are going to be in the Chicago area this holiday season, the Joffrey Ballet performs the best version of the Nutcracker Ballet I have ever seen. http://www.joffrey.com/nut
Glass candy garland at Pier 1
Glittery notebooks, rainbow bracelets, glitter gift bags, candy stickers, fabric cupcake ribbon, and hair tie lollipops at Michael’s
Fruit scented gel pens at Learning Express
al fresco, asparagus, autumn, baby carrots, beef tenderloin, California, Chicago, Detroit, dogs, family dinner, Jimmy Schmidt, mashed potatoes, Pinot Noir, pistachios, Rattlesnake Club, red wine, red wine sauce, roasted garlic, Robert Mondavi, San Diego
Our lives have been so hectic as of late, I desperately wanted/needed a family sit-down dinner al fresco. For this special occasion, I decided upon one of my favorite recipes, Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine & Pistachios. I first made this recipe when we lived in San Diego as newlyweds, and my parents flew out to visit us. We didn’t eat dinner until 11pm because of my lack of cooking experience, 1am for my poor parents still on Chicago time! But it is one of my favorite meals ever, and my mother still talks about how delicious it was.
Tonight I paired the filet with sour cream and chive mashed potatoes, roasted baby carrots with a little brown sugar, and roasted thin asparagus with shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. My husband picked up a reasonable Pinot Noir for only $9. I am not a wine connoisseur, but I thought it was excellent: Robert Mondavi 2011 Private Selection Pinot Noir from California.
To top off the night, the kids played kickball, the dog stole 3rd base, and we roasted marshmallows over the fire pit. It was a great way to reconnect as a family, and celebrate the beginning of a new season. The recipe for the filets follows.. I made half a recipe this evening and omitted the sunflower seeds since I only had pistachios, and I skipped the parsley garnish. I also spooned the pistachio mixture and red wine sauce on top of the filets; I did not press them into the pistachios as it says to do. I can never get it to stick that way, and I want to eat every last bit of the pistachios! My favorite part of this recipe is the roasted garlic. It’s completely different than raw garlic, and the scent wafting from the oven is divine.
Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine & Pistachios
Recipe by Jimmy Schmidt of the Rattlesnake Club, Detroit
2 cups beef stock, 2 cups dry red wine, preferably Pinot Noir, 1/2 cup roasted garlic cloves, 1/2 cup chopped shallots, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 1 dash salt to taste, 1 dash fresh ground pepper to taste, 1/4 cup toasted chopped pistachios, 1/4 cup toasted chopped sunflower seeds, 2 lbs beef tenderloin cut into steaks, 2 Tbs olive oil, 4 sprigs fresh parsley for garnish
In a large saucepan, combine the stock, red wine, 3 Tbs roasted garlic, shallots, and 1/4 cup chopped parsley. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook until reduced to coat the back of a spoon, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into another saucepan, then adjust the salt and pepper. Stir in the remaining parsley, then reduce heat to low.
In a small bowl, combine the remaining garlic, the pistachios, sunflower seeds, and 2 Tbs red wine sauce. Mix well. Rub the surface of the steaks with the oil.
Grill the steaks until well-seared on the surface, about 5 minutes. Turn over and cook until you reach desired doneness, about 4 minutes for medium-rare, depending on the thickness.
Brush the tops of the steaks with a small amount of red wine sauce, then press the steaks, top side down, into the pistachio sauce, coating the surface well. Position the steaks on a serving plate, spoon the remaining sauce around them, garnish with parsley sprigs and serve~