A place to share my own family stories
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Thursday, June 30, 2011
For many years, my grandmother worked at Ray’s Drugstore and Hallmark shop. Half of the store was your standard drug store- aisles of toiletries, and over the counter medicines with a few small areas for toys or candy. The other half of the store was the Hallmark shop- aisles of cards and gift items displayed attractively much like it is today. Because of her job, she began what became an important holiday tradition for my family. Every year, she purchased a Hallmark ornament for each of the grandkids. When I got married, my mother packaged up my ornaments and gave them to me. That first year of marriage they were the only things hanging on my tree. Now, I buy my girls Hallmark ornaments every Christmas just like my grandmother did.
My grandparents lived in a small country house out among the fields of Junction City, Oregon. They planted pine trees all around their yard to block off the view of miles of open field. It made the house cozy as the trees began to grow, but it wasn’t until I was grown that the trees were big enough to serve their purpose and to provide privacy and a great shelter from the wind. I have fond memories of their house. I stayed there many times as I was growing up. My favorite room in the house was the room we called the White Bedroom. It had a white carpet, a brass bed, with a quilt that was a white fabric surrounding pale calico pieces. It had white sheer curtains and one of those old fashioned windows that had to be pushed up to open. They had apple and cherry trees bordering their driveway, and beyond that a flower garden filled with every kind of Dahlia. When I got married, they decided to sell the house, get a trailer, and travel. I miss their house very much. I got their bedroom set when they moved. I still have it.
My grandmother always went to the beauty shop to have her hair done. For many years, she dyed it black- a very common look in the 1950’s, but one that got to be too strong a color for her as she got older. She started to lighten it to brown, then, as the years passed, her hair couldn’t hold the color anymore. Her color got lighter and lighter until for awhile it was nearly pink. She finally let it go white, but she still got it styled as often as she could. She was very generous, and always gave things when she visited. There was always a shirt that she had just never worn after she bought it, or shoes that didn’t fit just right after she got them home from the store. She once tried to give me a used pair of nylons. She loved writing cards and letters, and took great pride in her lovely handwriting.
My grandparents traveled the countryside for many years in their trailer. They loved RV campgrounds, and had joined RV communities. As they grew tired of travel, they settled for the winter months at an RV park in Southern California, then would take the pickup truck to visit family. When my grandmother fell and broke both wrists, it became apparent that both of them had deteriorating health. They lived with my parents, moving with them to Utah. My grandfather died after suffering from alzheimers and dementia. My grandmother lingered, suffering a series of mini strokes that left lasting damage. She died Saturday, June 18th. She was 90 years old.
My relationship with my grandmother grew strained when I was a teenager. I had a great relationship with my parents, and wasn’t rebellious with them. Instead, all of my moody emotional angst was directed toward my grandparents. I was angry and irritated with her because every time she came over she would criticize my hair, or my weight, or something else she didn’t like. She would do it in a roundabout way that wouldn’t directly insult. “Why don’t you go comb your hair before we leave?” meant that my hair looked terrible and she didn’t like it. “Have you lost weight?” meant that I was looking pudgy. She would do the same thing when she wanted something done. Rather than asking for something directly, she would hint and comment about it until somebody was annoyed enough to go and do it for her. Her passive aggressive behavior, and my teenage rebellion were not a good combination. I spent years trying to repair the damage. I never did reclaim the adoration that I had for her as a child, but I think I managed patience and polite respect.
It didn’t help that my family left the Methodist church to join The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My grandmother couldn’t accept our new religion, and would use her passive aggressive ways to make negative comments about our church. It was a big effort to stay polite, and it made us sad that we couldn’t share our faith with her. After my grandparents moved in with my parents, they decided that if they were going to move to Utah with them, they should join our church. I remember when my mother told me that they were getting baptized, my jaw hit the floor. I asked her, “What did you do with my REAL grandparents?” By the time my grandmother was baptized, she already had brain damage from several strokes. The church leaders determined that she was lucid enough to make the choice to be baptized, but I don’t know how much she really understood about the covenants she was making. I do know that it was a great joy to go through the temple with her, laying to rest one of the biggest sources of contention in our relationship.
I will miss my grandmother, the good and the bad. I hope to treasure the good memories, and to learn from her faults and make sure they never become MY faults. She loved her grandchildren, and did her best to show us how much she loved us in so many ways. I remember once when I was sick, and my mother was working full time. She had never left me home alone before, and worried that I would be afraid. My grandmother left the pharmacy and came to see me on my lunch break to make sure I was alright. She made me soup, and brought me comic books and treats from the drugstore so that I wouldn’t be bored. As her gifts got stranger, like the used nylons, I never forgot the generosity and the intention behind them. I look forward to the day when I can see her again, free of the damage caused by so many strokes. I want to hear her stories.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
Going to Space!
People always say “I never win anything” when it comes to contests and drawings and all of those things. I used to say the same thing. I never won drawings or raffles or contests for things, at least until this year. This year the cosmic karma has turned around and I have won a recipe contest where I got a gift card to my favorite store, and THREE drawings where I won a Santa key, tickets to a chocolate event, and last but not least, a chance to go into space! Okay, not really actually space, but to a very cool and amazing event. Iworlds is the new exhibit at the fabulous Thanksgiving Point. It is a space shuttle simulator that lets a group of sixteen crew members have a science fiction adventure similar to Star Trek. The package I won was the Ultimate Party Adventure. My name was announced on television on Good Things Utah, and I won dinner and a two hour mission for sixteen people. WOW.
The hardest part of winning something amazing like this is deciding who to take, and who to leave out. It was a difficult decision. I ended up taking almost everyone in our regular gaming group, and my girls. We met in the lobby of the Museum of Ancient Life, and were led to their party room, all decorated like a jungle. Dinner was catered by Wallaby’s- an Australian grill in Lindon. We had pulled pork, rice and beans, salad, bread and butter, mint brownies and punch. The food was wonderful, and everyone had more than enough to eat.
At the end of the hour, we were met by someone from iWorlds, and led out to what was the trailer of a semi truck. The trailer was filled with all of the décor and equipment needed to take our group on a space mission. We met first in one section of the trailer where we selected jobs, and had a briefing on the background of the world we were part of, and what our mission was going to be. There were sixteen different jobs, each with their own responsibilities. There were jobs for damage control, engines, weapons, communications, navigation, scanners, transport, ambassador and security. My husband ended up as Captain of the ship, and I was his first mate. My daughters were chosen to be security- a good place for the two teens on the mission, we thought.
Our mission was complex, but the young woman doing our briefing did a great job explaining it quickly. We were a crew on a ship working for a democratic union of planets. We were assigned the task of traveling to the planet of New Earth which had been taken over by a dictator. We had information from spies on the planet that would convince another planet alliance to join with us in removing the dictator from power. We had to go to the planet, stay outside the cloaked satellites that would destroy us if we reached their range of detection. Then we had to wait for a shuttle from the planet bringing our spies, and a briefcase with the information. We would then get the information to the other alliance, then go down to New Earth to evacuate our embassy there, and return home. After the briefing, we were given uniforms to wear, and had to go into the “transporter” which was basically a tube with a revolving door. The door opened to reveal the “ship”.
The ship had computer stations for all of the crew members, and a large viewing screen in the center. As captain and first mate, my husband and I were led to a couple of very wobbly bar stools as our posts. We were all given ipods and headphones with a recording to play that trained us on our different positions. The Captain’s job was to make the final decisions and run the ship. My job as first mate was to make sure the Captain’s orders were followed, maintain order on the bridge, and to notify our home planet of our progress every ten minutes. I had a clipboard, a pen, and forms to fill out with those messages. I was to give those messages to our long range communications officer who then typed in the message to send back to command. Everyone else had their own set of instructions.
When the training was done, the mission began. It started with some simple introductions from the engine room, and the voice of the computer (played by iWorld employees who were watching from another room). We quickly got our ship to the planet, and waited outside of the satellite field. It didn’t take two minutes before things started going wrong. Our rendezvous ship was captured, the documents taken, our position was suddenly VERY bad without those documents. The adventure got crazy with us navigating through the satellite field, falsifying passcodes to get down to the planet, transporting refugees onto the ship, and escaping before enemy ships blew us up. Not to mention the intruders that were on board the ship, trying to shoot us from the transporter, the constant repairs from weapons damage, messages flying, and other endless things to scan, adjust, and navigate. Two hours flew by with every one of our sixteen person crew busy with something critical to the success of the mission- and their own little quests that kept them busy even when their job was not in the spotlight at that moment.
In the end, we successfully completed all requirements to win the mission. We had two “strikes” which were times when we needed to back up and start again. These were both for navigating the satellites- a very difficult job. This adventure used an average of three strikes, which made us better than most others playing this mission. We cheered our success, regretfully folded up our uniforms, gathered our things, and left the trailer. We stood outside in the fading light talking over the mission, all of us buzzing from the experience. We had so much fun! All of us said that we would love to come again, and that the group rate would absolutely be worth the cost. With reluctance, we said goodbye and started to drift off toward our various cars to go home.
I can’t say I never win anything anymore. This was such an amazing experience. I felt so very spoiled. All I can say is thank you Thanksgiving Point, and iWorlds for providing such a spectacular opportunity for us. Now, I can do my part, and tell all of you to try this! Schedule an event! Get your family and friends together and run a mission! This is a blast! I can’t wait to try this again!
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
This year is our 20th wedding anniversary. We decided to celebrate by taking a trip to New Orleans! My husband has wanted to go for years, and after the both of us played some roleplaying games taking place in New Orleans, we both had an interest in the city. It was interesting the reaction we got from people out here. Some of our friends had gone and loved it. Others, not so much. "It's good to go, but you probably won't ever want to go back." one person said, "Why would you want to go to that pit?" said another. Another person mentioned that the people were horrible. I was starting to get worried. We don't even drink, so we were betting our anniversary trip on the idea that there was more to do out there than hang out on Bourbon street!
My fears weren't alleviated when we arrived. Our hotel was located ON Bourbon street, right across the street from a blues club and bar. Although we had requested an inner room, we were given a room right on Bourbon street. As we stepped out on to Bourbon street for the first time, I got a good whiff....okay, some of the critics were right. Bourbon street stank. Everything was old and run down. Maybe this was a mistake.
I shouldn't have worried. The trip was delightful! The food was amazing- we had po' boys, beignets, muffuletta, gumbo, jambalaya, crawfish, alligator, and I even learned that I liked grits! Our room was beautiful, and very comfortable. While we could hear some of the music, the hotel had done very well damping the sound, so it wasn't a problem getting to sleep at all. Being around the old buildings was like travelling back in time. Everything had an old world feel to it, and we were enchanted by the balconies, and narrow little streets. We toured the St. Louis Cemetery, marvelling how living below sea level necessitated building above ground vaults for the bodies. We visited the Voodoo temple, and spoke to the Voodoo priestess. We went on a ghost tour, and visited such haunted sites as the Lalaurie mansion, and the little alleyway by the St. Louis Cathedral where a priest is said to be singing the Catholic Kyrie on late rainy nights. We even got to take a steamboat ride on the Mississippi river.
The people were welcoming and charming. As we were walking to our hotel one afternoon, a street musician asked me if we were here for the jazz festival. I replied no, that we were leaving the day the jazz festival started, but that we were here for our 20th wedding anniversary. He grinned and said, "Well, congratulations to you! Did you get married here?" I said no, but that for our 20th, we needed to do something really spectacular. He shook my hand and said, "You have a wonderful anniversary here, honey." In the end, we came home happy, well rested, and really not wanting to get back into our regular every day lives!
Were the bad things there? Sure they were! My critics were right about many of the things they brought up. They were also wrong. I think you find what you're looking for. I found a city full of interesting culture, architecture, and history. I found people to love and food to crave. I loved our vacation, and I hope to return someday- my box of beignet mix isn't going to last forever!
Sunday, April 24, 2011
The Great Cookie Experiment
My goodness, where has the time gone? Clearly I have been neglectful, so I am going to correct that, and tell you about a fun project I am starting up again. One of my hobbies is cooking. I love cooking, so I'm always collecting recipes and trying new things in the search for that great recipe. A few years ago I wanted to look for new cookie recipes. So I chose a recipe book I had and I made every recipe in the book. One recipe a week. I shared with friends and family and asked their opinion on the recipe, and I rated it based on everyone's opinions. This time, I have started the experiment up again, but I am going official.
My best friend works for Cornabys. Her family business makes absolutely the best tasting spreadable fruit you will ever find. It's low in sugar and calories, and it's made from raspberries grown right on their family's 21 acre raspberry farm. I get to help her out at the farmer's markets, tasting demos, and boutiques. One of her marketing jobs is to maintain the blog on the Cornabys website. When I was talking to her about starting The Great Cookie Experiment again, she said that I should write it up as a blog post, and she would make me a guest poster on the blog.
So that's what I did! The first post went up this week! If you would like to read about great cookies, not so great cookies, and dismal cookie failures, then go check it out! The Great Cookie Experiment
Thursday, December 2, 2010
When I was in college, there was a local jeweller that advertised in the campus directory. Their advertisement featured a ring that won an award for best design. It went on my wishlist for what I wanted out of a wedding ring because it was named "The Julie"- clearly a sign that it was meant for me. When my dreams came true, and my fiance took me ring shopping, I HAD to go and try on that ring. I learned a couple of things. First, winning ring designs are very expensive- far too expensive for a couple of poor college students. Second, my hands are very tiny and that ring was big enough to swallow my entire left hand. I needed a simple ring.
We didn't end up finding a ring out in Utah. We got engaged early in Decmeber, and we decided to search over Christmas break when we were with my family in California. We had a couple of generous, and very precious gifts to help us out. My mother, when she was a college student, lost her wedding ring in a ceramics class. It got mixed up with some clay, and that was the end of it. My parents couldn't afford another ring, so my grandparents bought her a replacement ring to wear. She wore it for several years before my father bought her a new ring. In honor of our engagement, my mother gave me that replacement ring to use as needed. Likewise, my fiance's mother and father had divorced, and she had remarried. She sent us her old wedding ring to help offset the cost of a ring. With two rings in hand, we went shopping two days before Christmas.
We found the ring in a strip mall of all places. A little jewelry store had recently opened between the Radio Shack and a dry cleaning business. The store was run by two brothers from Russia who crafted their own designs. It was originally an emerald ring- one round emerald stone, with two tiny diamonds coming off of it. The engagement band held the one stone, the wedding band the two tiny stones. The two bands swirled together in a simple curl. It was tiny and simple and very elegant. We decided to substitute the emerald for the diamond in my fiance's mother's ring, and use two small diamonds from my mother's ring, then trade in rest of the rings to offset the cost.
It was snowing that evening a few days later when we slipped outside for some privacy. We stood in the light of the white icicle lights framing my parents house and my sweetheart asked me to marry him again- this time pulling out a small box, and slipping the single band on my finger. I accepted again, a decision that has brought me so much joy over the last 20 years. The ring was a symbol of our combined families- his mother's diamond, my mother's diamonds resting side by side. It was a symbol of our love- for time and all eternity.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
I just won a recipe contest! This is completely unexpected because I never win anything! I have to share with you my recipe, and my story!
One of my favorite Halloween traditions is to make Spooky Suppers the week before Halloween. I collect the Halloween editions of all of those little recipe magazines you find at the checkout stand of the grocery store. I have a huge stack of them now, and I pore through them every October looking for new things to try, and ways to make a good creepy supper. Some of our favorites are things like Mummy wrapped hot dogs (pigs in a blanket) or Mummy rag soup (egg drop soup). Pizzas have faces the week before Halloween and spaghetti doesn't just have meatballs, it has EYEballs.
When my very favorite store, Anastasia's Attic, announced that they were having a Spookilicious Recipe contest, and that they wanted submissions of our spookiest recipes, I knew this was the contest to enter. I don't enter many of them, because, well, I never win anything. If it requires a great deal of effort to be part of the contest, it needs to be worth it. THIS was worth it! The problem was? I didn't have any time! I've been in rehearsals for the Ghost Tours, I've had Storytelling guild responsibilities, on top of dealing with the kids parent teacher conferences, and just trying to manage the household, I was literally swamped!
I WANTED to do a cupcake version of a cake I made for a Halloween party one year- it bled when you cut into it. But then I'd have to bake and decorate. I thought about adapting a Tomato Basil soup recipe to make it my own. But then I'd have to make several versions until I found the perfect combination. There were too many ideas, and no time at all.
I was pondering my dilemma as I was rushing to cook dinner one busy weeknight. I had to leave in half an hour to drive to Layton for a Guild meeting, and I was rushing a bit. I looked down at the zucchini soup I was making for dinner. It was green! It was an old family recipe that I had never seen in a cookbook, and I seriously doubt anyone knew where the recipe came from in the first place! Gears started clicking in my head. I called the girls and told them to help me clear the table and put out a green placemat. I pulled out my black dishes I save just for Halloween time (What? You don't do this?) and served up my green soup. I had made little cheese biscuits to go with the soup, so put those along the side of the plate, and I shot a few pictures, trying to get the best light possible. Then I quickly ate the soup and rushed out to my meeting.
A few days later I uploaded the picture and the recipe, and forgot about it. When they announced the winners yesterday, I couldn't believe that my name was listed! I win a $50 gift card I can use to spend on beautiful things! Thank you, Anastasia's Attic, and thank you Mom for serving us Zucchini (I mean, Slime) Soup!
Slime Soup (aka Zucchini soup)
1 onion, chopped
6 cups zucchini. chopped
1 can chicken broth
6 strips of bacon- cooked and crumbled
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1 cup milk or cream (To make this really low calorie, use skim milk. To make it KIND of low calorie, use evaporated milk. To make this decadent, use cream.)
Simmer the onion and zucchini in the chicken broth 15 minutes or until tender. Put in a blender and blend until smooth. Add 3 strips of bacon, salt, pepper, and milk. cook until warm. Top with remaining crumbled bacon. Serves 4.