Mini Munchkin Weekend

Mike and I recently spent a weekend in Milwaukee for a family wedding and we were so blessed to have our entire family there including the two grandsons, Jackson (17 mos.) and Andy (13 mos.) Here is what I learned about babies at that special age:

BABIES LOVE TO CLAP. and they like it even more when you clap for them first. Then they can respond by clapping for themselves. At the wedding when we took the family photo, the bridesmaids and groomsmen all clapped so the babies would smile and they did!

BABIES LOVE TO SPLASH. The bathtub is the happy zone, unless they poop in the tub and they still want to play in the water. Get them out fast!

BABIES GET AS EXASPERATED AS ADULTS. When I would pick up little Andy from his crib, he would carefully hand me his blanket first, then raise his arms. I would put the blanket back in his bed so I could pick him up and he would SIGH, lower his arms and pick his blanket up again, while looking at me like I was not quite bright.

Jackson has an Elmo covering on his tub faucet and each day his mom would repeat over and over, “Who’s this? It’s Elmo. Say Elmo.” Finally one day he just opened his mouth and screamed “ELMO” so she would stop. Very funny and again so exasperated. He knew it was Elmo all along of course.

BABIES WAVE TO STRANGERS. When they are strolling or being carried, babies this age wave and point to people and dogs and cats. The really nice people smile and wave back which the grandparents love.

BABIES CAN RECOGNIZE THEIR OWN MOM AT 100 FEET. And I am not kidding. They can whirl those little heads around and follow where their mom is and God help you if she walks out the door or into another room.

BABIES LET FOOD AND MILK DRIBBLE OUT WHEN THEY DON’T LIKE IT. Nothing polite about this one. I was trying to teach Andy to use his new Elmo sippy cup. I thought I had conquered it until he opened his mouth and all the milk I thought he was swallowing began running down his face. That’s when I said, “Let his mom teach him this one.” They also seem fascinated when they tip the cup upside down and watch the milk dribble out onto the carpet.

JACKSON HAS AN ACTUAL VOCABULARY. Which consists of cookie, Elmo, daddy, Bubba and Moe (his dogs) and something that Stephanie says is “Mama” but sounds a lot like “MMMMM.” He also learned a new word in Milwaukee-key. His Dedo (Mike) managed to misplace the home and car keys TWICE going to events and causing a big ruckus each time, with finger pointing, complaining etc. Then Jackson, sitting quietly in his car seat says “KEY” and we all cracked up. He also knows a lot of other words – I just can’t remember what they are.

BABIES LOVE BOOKS. And they love to have you read to them. Often, its 27 books later and they are still interested but it IS one of the only times they will sit quietly and let you hold them.

SOME BABIES LIKE TO CLIMB ON FURNITURE. Like Andy, who catapults himself onto the cocktail table and sofa and also wants to stand on the dishwasher whenever it is open.

MOST OF THE AFTERNOON TOO. This sentence is all in caps because it is the most important. After all, they need to rest so they have the energy to clap and splash and spill milk and talk!!


A Treat of a Tart

Last weekend while thumbing through a local grocery publication I spotted a recipe that looked interesting. They proclaimed “If you only make one appetizer this season this should be it!”

Well, I thought, OK, let’s see if they’re correct and guess what,
THEY WERE! It came out crispy and delicious and looked festive too. Here it is.

Caramelized Onion Tart

1 pkg Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry Sheets, thawed on counter
10 slices bacon, fried and cut into 1” pieces
½ c. cottage cheese
2 large eggs
1 tbsp. flour
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
1 c. grated Gruyere cheese (I substituted Swiss as the Gruyere is so pricey but it is better)
6 medium onions, caramelized
1 tsp. chopped thyme or ¼ tsp. dried

To Caramelize Onions

This is very easy to do and caramelized onions can be used in a lot of ways – on bruschetta, on burgers, not to mention they are the basis for French onion soup.

In a medium frying pan melt 2 tbsp. butter and add 3 tbsp. olive oil. Peel and thinly slice about 6 onions and add to pan. On a medium- low heat start to sauté onions. As they become translucent lower heat and let fry until they are brown and rich and not yet crispy. This may take 20 minutes or more. Remove from heat. If you are not using them right away they can be stored in fridge. Add more onions as needed for larger quantities.

The Tart

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

While onions are caramelizing, fry bacon and cut into pieces and set aside, then shred cheese so it is ready. As puff pastry begins to thaw, gently unfold it on your counter and squeeze edges together. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment p
aper and place 5 sections of the pastry on the sheet. Discard the extra one or save it for some other use. Make sure pastry is thawed but still cold.

Mix in a blender or food processor (I used my mini chopper) the cottage cheese, flour, eggs, salt and pepper until smooth. Spread custard evenly on puff pastry. I sort of crimped the edges so it doesn’t run off the cookie sheet. Top with the cheese, onions, bacon and thyme all spread evenly.

Bake 30-35 minutes, let sit 5 minutes when out of oven.

Really, try this one – it is best hot or warm, but I saved a portion of it for the next day and had it cold for lunch and it was great!! It really is the best new appetizer I have found!


The New Fall Catalogs

I have been exploring the new fall catalogs for you and I have found a couple you might enjoy. At this time of year the catalogs are so plentiful, as the holidays are approaching and they are all trying to entice us to buy.

If you try
Catalogs.com, you will find a wonderful resource of so many different catalogs. And you can pretty much order all of them for free. I have been getting catalogs for years – as a designer they were part of my everyday life and they seem to follow me no matter where I live. Just for fun and just for you, I scoped out a few new ones I wasn't that familiar with.

Image Design and Furniture Company was chock full of great home décor items. There are so many categories on the website for you to try, like florals, vases, accents, throws and home accents. Themed décor wasn’t great – too many roosters, jungle and rustic lodge stuff. I clicked on picture frames, decorative bottles and vases and I found a treasure trove of fun stuff. They also have a group of home décor gifts under $25 which is pretty great. The “Old World Italian” section has some cool home lighting and rugs. Give this one a try!

My next stop was a website called
Layla Grace. Wow, do they ever have cool furnishings. They have a gorgeous group of nursery furniture (not that same old Toys R Us stuff or even Pottery Barn). Check out their “Staff Favorites” which includs a pretty wedding book keepsake and some great candlesticks. I think this website is a keeper and I have already ordered my own catalog. They are showcasing beautiful Dwell Studio fabrics which can be ordered by the yard. While the prices aren’t exactly inexpensive, they do carry ordinary things with extraordinary designs, like oven mitts and tablecloths.

Try some updates in your home for fall. Broaden your horizons and instead of just shopping where you happen to live, check out a few new home décor websites and order yourself a catalog!! Happy Fall.


My Beautiful Birthday Book

I want to tell you all about my beautiful birthday book and what prompted me to write this blog (which I have been meaning to do for a month now).

I was working at Tuesday Morning and a woman was purchasing a gorgeous cashmere throw. I commented on it and she said she had just turned 60 and the throw was a birthday gift to herself. I said, “I just turned 60 myself and my daughter gave me an amazing gift.” She replied that her daughter had also given her a special gift – she had flown in from her home in Berlin for a visit to celebrate. Well, I thought to myself, “I can top that!” I told her my daughter had not only visited me from Boston (OK I know Boston is not Berlin, but it gets better) and she brought her precious baby with her.

Then I told her my big news – my daughter left a gift with my husband to be opened on my actual birthday and it was the most sensational, thoughtful and beautiful gift. It was a pretty notebook with FORTY letters from my friends, family, co-workers, neighbors and even college friends from 40 years past and they all said the best things. Like, how I am a good friend and fun and they love me and all that stuff that is so nice to hear/read especially when I am feeling low. The letters were all so interesting. I even received one listing the “Top Ten Reasons Why It’s Great To Be 60” which included a great comment on my perceived hearing loss which meant I could tune out Mike. College friends sent photos of the good old days and my daughter-in-law wrote an incredible letter that I will cherish. I have read and re-read all the letters so many times.

I know so many of you participated in this wonderful book and I was so shocked and surprised, not only by the wonderfulness of it all, but that so many of you took the time to actually write these special letters. I know how busy everyone is and I promise if anyone ever does this for you, I will be first in line with a letter, as this meant the world to me. Thank you so much.

Well, the lady at the counter started to cry and kept telling me what an incredible gift it was and how blessed I am to have my daughter who organized all of this for me and I couldn’t agree more! I really didn’t mean to make her cry with my story or make her daughter’s trip sound just OK, but there you go! I DID GET THE MOST AMAZING GIFT EVER. IT EVEN MADE TURNING 60 NOT SO BAD!!!


Chairs, Chairs and More Chairs

Have you noticed all the cool side chairs out there lately? An article in our local paper caught my eye recently—they showed a photo of a chair covered in different fabrics with different wood finishes and it was amazing how the chair changed personalities.

I went scouting for chairs for you and there is a great selection. You can find stylish chairs with and without arms, chairs with high backs and low backs, ones that are really only decorative and others that are supremely comfortable.

There is a catalog out there you all should sign up to receive. It’s called
Ballard Designs and it is full of up-to-minute styling for all sorts of things. Their current catalog has a display of multiple chairs on the cover available in different fabrics and finishes. Some of them may seem a little pricey but they sure can give you a jumping off point to figure out something creative for yourself.

I went to my favorite discount stops like
Tuesday Morning and Marshalls and took some photos for inspiration. Haven’t you always wished you had one more great side chair you can pull away from the corner to seat that extra guest or use for a nice accent? I know all my clients always like this idea and here is your chance to make that happen!!


Mom Goes to Greece

No, of course Mom didn’t go to Greece, but she did go to the Detroit version of it, Greek Town. This is a true hotspot for the gambling gang which is mom and her buddies.

Once again she got up at 5 a.m. even though the bus doesn’t leave Lorain until 8 (it’s called anticipation and excitement). Her pal Olga is the leader of the pack so Mom got a good seat in the front of the bus. Apparently these are prized seats and since Olga and her brother Bobo (yes for you non-believers these are their real names) are the trip organizers, Mom always get to ride up front. There are a lot of perks to this friendship – Olga is in charge of the FOOD too and since they do a lot of eating, this is a great thing.

Before they even pull out of Lorain for the 3 hour drive, they are served coffee and doughnuts. Is this the smartest thing for a bunch of old people with bladder issues to be doing? I ask myself this every time. Then, midway there, they are served chips and fruit. They arrive and after only a bit of casino gambling they are off to the GRAND BUFFET which costs the whopping price of $12.99. They all get discount coupons from Olga so it is only $9, (about the price of a glass of wine for me in a restaurant). Since Mom only eats a tiny bit of food and they won’t let you carryout, it really isn’t that much of a bargain for her.

NOW THE IMPORTANT NEWS— MOM WINS BIG. When she tells me how much she won later that evening I am skeptical since she practices what we all call “Mom Math” which means she only tells us her winnings and not how many twenty dollar bills she takes out of her purse during the day. But this time she was incredibly lucky and had a great day. Thank goodness because if she loses and you win, things can get a bit ugly.

At 6 p.m. after a full day of gambling, they all board the bus to go back home. Olga serves her very own potato chip casserole on the bus and they all travel along in peace with Mom in the front counting her money. All is well with the world.


June is for Jackson

In early June, our first grandbaby Jackson turned one year old and his parents celebrated with a super creative, pirate-themed party just for him. Stephanie is incredibly talented at entertaining and it was a most special event. I loved the fact so many age groups were invited – Stephanie and Andy’s friends, Mike and me (Baba and Dedo), my Cincinnati family of friends and of course, Karen, Jackson’s grandmother as well as Karen’s relatives. Stephanie and Andy have many friends with small children of their own who were all included as Jackson’s own buddies.

AHOY! Let’s talk pirates. J was wearing a darling onesie personalized with his name and a pirate and some cool checked pants. The tables were charming with large black and white polka dot cloths created for the event. Pirate favors of every kind were everywhere – treasure chests of candy, personalized candy bars, decorated cookies and a tiered centerpiece of cupcakes with pirate themed picks. The goodie bags were too cute and everyone wore birthday hats with a big “J.” A 4’ tall piñata pirate greeted guests at the front door, but before entering the magical space they were asked to stop on the porch for a photo wearing pirate and wench headpieces, with the option of waving swashbuckling swords. Stephanie had a large gold frame hanging from the porch soffit and Mike took the photos. Of course, not everyone enjoys having their photo taken as much as me but many of the guests joined in the fun.

The food was delicious – fried chicken, lots of salads, fruit and of course spectacular cupcakes, with popcorn and cotton candy as an additional option. We loved all of it, and while Jackson didn’t understand much, he does know a fun toy when he sees one – that’s for sure. He got some adorable gifts and everyone was happy to celebrate his first b-day!


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A Perfect 4th of July Picnic Salad

Here is a new salad to add to your list – I like it since it is not too mayonnaisey and has a lot of crunchy ingredients. After talking to friends, I think it is a slightly different version that many people make. Make it this weekend for your 4th of July festivities.

Best Broccoli Salad

3c. broccoli flowerets – just buy the crowns and trim them into mouth size pieces
½ c. raisins
½ c. chopped celery
8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled (in a pinch I have used Hormel real bacon pieces)
½ c. nuts – I have used cashews, walnuts and even peanuts

Mix all these elements together in a large bowl, then coat with dressing. Here is the dressing: mix ½ c. mayonnaise, 2 tbs. honey and the juice of one whole lemon. Pour on the salad and toss away. If I am making more, I use 2 lemons and increase the mayo by ¼ c.

I really liked this and so have my guests. I first had a version of it at my grandson’s birthday party that was purchased at Sam’s Club. This is my duplicate version. It keeps well and is something different than the standard fare. ENJOY! Happy Fourth of July!


Amazing Moms

I just returned from a long trip to Boston where I visited my daughter, her husband and adorable baby.

I felt compelled to write a blog about this current generation of educated, career moms and all they do. My daughter and her friends battle an incredible schedule of work, baby and family duties which is the norm, not the exception. When my children were babies, I was able to stay home and the most pressure on me was whether I could get to bowling on time on Wednesday mornings and if I could find something to do each day that would get me out of my house. One day I would grocery shop, another day found me at the fresh fruit market, another at the library and I always was home for nap time. My friends and I frowned at the moms who had their babies in Macy’s mid-afternoon, as that was standard nap time for a little one. Wow, how we judged others.

Well it is all different now. A working mom wakes early, goes to the gym before work (are you kidding me?), then comes home, wakes, changes, dresses and feeds her baby while her husband gets ready for work. She packs the baby’s lunch, a clothing change (the daycare really needs this) and all the supplies, then packs her own lunch, figures out a simple breakfast for her husband, and gets herself completely ready as a professional for a long day of her own.

The daddy (if you are lucky) takes the baby to daycare in the stroller or carrier and the mom goes to her office. At the end of the day, the mom takes the bus or subway to pick up the baby where the daycare provides her with a detailed written account of his day. She takes the baby home, makes dinner and keeps the laundry going and apartment clean too! And then, she gets to do it all again the next day.

BUT, there are huge benefits too! While the baby does have the standard daycare runny nose, he is extremely sociable, loves other babies and can sleep through anything. The mom and dad can utilize their exceptional educational backgrounds, feel productive, contribute to society and build a wonderful life together. I am not saying that sometimes there are not enough hours in the day, but we all experience that right?

I know that for generations there have been so many moms that have to work to survive to take care of their families. My hat is off to them and to the current generation of moms that also only want the best for their loved ones.

P.S. I forgot to mention all the rest – grocery shopping, meal planning, haircuts, manicures and pedicures, planting flowers, shopping for your home, your clothing and planning nice things for your friends AND reading the book club book all the while maintaining your home and socializing with friends.


Broccoli, Bacon and Cheese, OH MY!!

Recently I had lunch with one of my friends and the special soup of the day was cream of broccoli with bacon and gorgonzola cheese. Even though it was a warm day, we both thought it sounded great and it was! My mom has a broccoli soup she has been making for years and I knew I could easily add the additional ingredients.

Cream of Broccoli Soup with Bacon and Cheese

6 tbs. butter
1 c. chopped onions
3 tbs. flour
6 c. chicken broth
2 bunches of broccoli chopped and cooked
1 ½ c. half and half
3/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. pepper
8 strips bacon cooked till crisped, then chopped
½ c. gorgonzola cheese plus more for topping

Melt butter in large pan and sauté onions for 5 minutes. Add flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring to get out that raw flour taste. Add chicken broth and broccoli. Simmer 15-20 minutes. Puree in blender in batches, then return to pan. Stir in half and half, salt and pepper, bacon and cheese.

When serving, top with a few cheese crumbles and maybe a few bacon bits.

When another friend came over with her husband I served this soup as a first course instead of my usual appetizers. I served it in plain white coffee cups with the Barefoot Contessa’s cheese straws, which by the way are very soft and yummy. Enjoy!


Frozen Peanut Butter Cups

Doesn’t this title sound delicious? Well they are delicious and the perfect simple summer dessert. They can be made ahead of time and popped out onto the plate whenever you are ready.

Frozen Peanut Butter Cups

1c. whipping cream
7 oz. jar marshmallow crème
3 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
½ c. chunky peanut butter
Chocolate syrup or chocolate shavings if desired

In a small bowl, beat whipping cream until stiff peaks form. In a large bowl, beat marshmallow crème, cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. With a rubber spatula, fold whipped cream into peanut butter mixture. This takes a bit of time but be patient so it all gets mixed in and stays fluffy.

Line 9 regular sized muffin cups or 24 min-muffin cups with paper liners. Spoon the mousse mixture into the cups. Set uncovered pans in freezer for 20-25 minutes until cups are firm. I place them in a plastic container and cover tightly with foil and then the lid. From there, I return them to the freezer. Remove from freezer a few minutes before serving. Top with chocolate syrup or shavings if desired.

I have been making these for years and they are always a hit. The mini ones are perfect for a ladies lunch with coffee.


Speedy and the Washer

OK, I know this is not my typical blog but I have a funny story for you. Last week, I was doing laundry and since it is very noisy, I always keep the laundry room door closed. I opened the door to check on the dryer load and instantly smelled smoke and the room looked a bit hazy.

I jumped on the dryer, pulled it from the wall and unplugged it, but the plug and outlet were cool. I was stumped. On impulse I opened the washer lid – well, the washer had stopped spinning and all I could hear was a low hum like the motor had died and the clothes were sitting in a pile of sudsy water. That’s how I knew I had myself a washer problem.

When Mike came home I told him about it and he proclaimed he would handle everything. This was the first time in almost 40 years of marriage that he decided to help with this type of household problem. I said, “fine, go for it” and recommended he get on the internet and look for a Whirlpool repair person. Actually I told him to look it up in the phone book which I know is hopelessly old fashioned. So anyway, he did get on the internet and made an appointment for a service call for the next day. I was mightily impressed as he has shown no interest in this type of thing in the past.

I come home from work the next day and Mike has left me a sign on the washer that said “NO PROBLEM, ONLY NEEDS A BELT.” Great. He tells me later the guy had ordered the belt and would come back when he got it. Finally, the funny part. I look at the card the guy left and it said:

Address and phone no.

And in the tiniest font imaginable on the very, very bottom of the card it said

Simple washer and dryer repair

Well, in the end Speedy called and said he did not really know how to fix it and would not be coming back. Leave it to Mike to call a mower repair service for the washer. Apparently Speedy can only really fix lawnmowers. Whirlpool is on their way on tomorrow. Speedy charges $10 for a service call but told Mike he didn’t have to pay. So much for Mike handling the family maintenance issues. But he tried. I guess next time it’s back to me again.


The Royal Wedding and Me

I looked each day in my mailbox for my invite to the royal wedding uniting Kate and William and alas, not even a “Save the Date” ever arrived. Well, never mind, I can attend in my own special way.

As with Princess Anne, (we share the same birthday don’t ya know), Fergie and Andrew and Diana and Charles, I get myself up at 4 a.m. to participate in all the pageantry. This year, I have requested the day off from work and have arranged all my wedding party supplies. I am having fresh cinnamon rolls (well, Pillsbury makes them but I am baking them), bloody mary’s, and a delicious brunch casserole with ham, olives, cheese and eggs.

My tiara is ready to go, my alarm is set and I may have on my PJs but I will be watching on my big screen as the queen and everyone else arrives. I can offer my own fashion critique (seriously, is that Princess Anne ever going to get any style?) and I cannot wait to see what my friend Kate is wearing. Will it be that rumpled tissue paper look that Diana chose, or will it be something fitted without all those bows and mutton sleeves? At least Kate won’t be as heavily corseted as Fergie, who looked so nice, then exploded after the wedding and became a Weight Watchers spokesperson. Not that there is anything wrong with that. I mean a princess has to make money too, right?

Kate is a lucky girl. She went to the same college a prince and future king attended and managed to not only snag him but to hold onto him for 7 years. He has a new bald spot on the top of his head that I am pretty sure he did not have when she met him so I guess she really is in love. All my best to the happy couple and I will forgive them for not inviting me as I am sure my invite was “lost in the mail.” I will be there in spirit anyway. And by the way, I have absolutely perfected my royal wave. I have practicing it all week!

Photos from Access Hollywood


Wreaths for Your Door and More

SPRING IS HERE –at least in some parts of the country. Here in Rochester we had snow yesterday but we are always hopeful for Easter and all that spring brings.

At Tuesday Morning we have an amazing variety of spring wreaths in the store right now. They are so colorful and bright, made of geraniums, hydrangeas, apple blossoms and a wonderful mix of spring flowers.

Wreaths can be showcased in so many places. As a designer, I once had a client with twin daughters and we had a pair of wreaths made to go above their twin beds. The little girls loved them and thought of them as “crowns.” These tiny girls are grown now and their mom says they took the wreaths with them to college to hang above their beds as a little “smile from home.”

Of course your front door is the perfect place for a welcoming wreath but I have seen them all over the house. They can hang on the armoire door, in a powder room, a laundry room, a kitchen or on the side door into the garage that no one ever “decorates.” At the holidays, I have a matching pair of berry wreaths flocked with snow I hang side by side on my twin bookcases.

A wreath can hang over an entry mirror (suspend it from fishing line from a tiny nail midway into the mirror) or perfectly over a fireplace. Light it with tiny lights, to give you a happy glow no matter the season. Check out your local Tuesday Morning store to find the perfect wreath.

Remember, if you have wreath on your front door and a bird family tries to nest there, just put an artificial bird on the wreath and the live birds will think another one lives there. This is a BECKY KNOWS EVERYTHING SUPER TIP JUST FOR YOU.


Mom's Excellent Adventure

A few weeks ago my 86 year old mother began her “excellent adventure.” She traveled to San Francisco to visit Bonnie and her family. Bonnie made all the plans and set to precision all the variables: how to get Mom to the airport, wheelchair access, credentials for me to walk her to the gate, Bonnie’s daughters home for their break from college, etc., etc. Of course the biggest variable of all was Mom’s ability to go that far from home and stay with Bonnie for 9 days. But she did it and I wanted to share with you the funny stuff.

Crazy Stuff Mom did on the Trip

1. The night before the trip I traveled to Lorain to spend the night at Mom’s so I could take her to the airport – she had a 9:00 a.m. flight (which of course means we left her house at 5:30 for the 35 minute drive). Mom had a productive day and by that I mean she had her hair done and a pedicure, complete with jewel inserts. I arrived in Lorain to find her in 17 degree weather wearing flip flops to protect her new toe look. We go to dinner where Mom bites down on a crunchy baguette and cracks the cap on her front tooth. I am thinking this is now Bonnie’s problem.

2. We get to the airport easily and stand in line to check her bag (none of that leaving it at the curb – she is convinced it won’t get to the proper place). We also get her boarding pass, a wheelchair and an escort pass for me. Our wheelchair attendant was Elizabeth and Mom whispered to ask me what her tip should be. When I said $5.00, Mom choked.

3. OK she is off. I wait at the gate until the plane backs up. Bonnie safely gets her at the other end in San Fran. Bonnie promptly takes her to lunch since she is apparently going to die if she doesn’t eat lunch no matter what time zone she is in.

4. She announces to Bonnie she has a broken cap and won’t go to a dentist. I didn’t realize she had so few teeth and uses her front teeth to chew, like a squirrel…so now Bonnie has to figure out how to feed her soft foods for the next 9 days. Sorry Bonnie.

5. Bonnie lives in Modesto and has a fab new house with its own pool house/guest cottage, so Mom opts to stay there and I am thinking Bonnie is one lucky girl since Mom can do what she wants out there and not drive anyone too nuts. Mom is skittish about meeting Bonnie’s dog, Dodger but all goes well since he is a cutie pie.

6. Bonnie calls me and says she has to make “Snaggle Tooth” a different soup each day as that is pretty much all she can eat. She makes French onion, potato leek, tomato, etc.

7. Bonnie takes her to a casino where she wins $338 using “Mom Math” which she means she only counts her winnings, not the money she spent betting. Mom is thrilled and I say “good thing!” as Mom is very cranky when someone wins other than herself.

8. Mom tells Bonnie she figures she is “healthy from the head down but not so hot from the head up.” I mean she is deaf, has one bad eye and we won’t discuss her hair. Her mind is still very sharp though and with her foot troubles from her diabetes I think she is healthier up than down and so does Bonnie. (Her ears are really getting huge, so that would be a negative on the head up theory).

9. The funniest thing that happened though is the photo Bonnie sent me of herself and Mom wearing the same dress. She titled it “Bitch Stole My Look” from the Joan River’s Fashion Police show (if you have never seen this you must watch – it is hysterical). They both own the same dress and are looking so cute, much like my Tete Menka and her daughter Vivian who wore the same clothes until Tete passed away at 80 some years old. Pretty sure Bon is not going to make this a trend.

10. Bonnie travels with Mom back to Cleveland and spends a few days there, finding a good dentist, a podiatrist and buys her a new toaster. That Bonnie is one great daughter and sister. Mom is home and couldn’t wait to tell all her friends about her “excellent adventure.”


Wine is a Must at Book Club

Recently my sister Bonnie joined a book club looking to have some fun. Apparently it is a little bit too serious for her. Maybe she should join my daughter’s group in Boston. They make you take a shot if you don’t read the book. Now that sounds like a good time!

Bonnie writes:

The book club I joined at our local library will take anyone, and it was of course not the kind I have been dying to be invited to for years.......the "wine-swilling-don't really read the book-but just gossip with ladies kind". The librarian in charge actually expects us to read the books and be prepared to discuss. She evens emails us discussion questions to refer to. I just couldn’t get into our latest book, the highly acclaimed, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson. Only the third month and I was checking to see if the movie version was available! (I so fondly recall an episode of "Cheers" when Sam labored through reading War and Peace to impress Diane only to discover, "It's a MOVIE??!!) Back at home, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie version of the book I was supposed to read. It was days before the book club and my husband Paul kept making air quotes when we talked about "the book" and "the plot" and my anticipated participation in the discussion. I decided to return to the book and spent a good bit of time playing "open book test" with our discussion questions and passed last night with flying colors! I know, I know, the book is ALWAYS better than the movie. But it kept me involved in book club such as it is. Oh look, June's choice will be Eat, Pray Love. Actually have read it already-SCORE!! And yes, the book is way better than the movie.


That Parisian Look

You see it everywhere now, in rugs and lampshades and pillows and furniture. I am talking about the wonderful new look of linen with prints of Paris and French words written in both block and script.

These new/old items have become popular as accents anywhere in the home. Remember the rooster look of a few years ago? You could find rooster prints on dishtowels, tablecloths and napkins. And there were plates with roosters, cookie jars and giant accent roosters. So many of my design clients were into this look and it was difficult to convince some of them that we should stay away from the ordinary and look for the unusual. It is still out there but has diminished in popularity although there are still a lot of collectors out there still buying rooster.

At Tuesday Morning whenever we get in any merchandise with London or Paris prints they sell immediately. Last week we had a round ottoman with stained, turned legs that I quickly took a photo of for you as I knew it wouldn’t last. I was right – we sold it in 2 days. We currently have tea-stained linen pillows, some dishtowels and a few adorable small lamps with linen printed shades.

You can bring that little bit of Paris into your home without spending too much. Check out what is available online or in your local overstock stores! Au Revoir!


Cornbread You Won't Believe

I recently watched an episode of Giada at Home where Giada made a cornbread that I knew I could improve on. So here’s what I did – I experimented with different ingredients and I came up with a most delicious cornbread you can serve with soup or stew or anything else.

Becky’s Deluxe Cornbread

2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix (see I told you this was good and easy, plus Jiffy is only $.50 here in Rochester)

½ c. milk

3 tbs. butter, melted

2 eggs

10 large pimento stuffed olives, coarsely chopped

1 small jalapeno pepper, finely diced

½ red pepper, chopped

3 green onions, chopped

1 c. grated mozzarella cheese

Spray a baking dish with cooking spray – Giada used an 8x8 but that was too small for me after adding all the additional ingredients, so I used my 11x8 dish which worked perfectly.

In a medium bowl mix all the ingredients together. The batter will be very thick and lumpy but you can spread it easily in the pan. Bake at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes. It will be crunchy on the outside and wonderful and soft on the inside. Give this a try. You will love it.


Baby Andy is Christened

Last weekend, our family traveled to Boston for the baptism of little Andrew Joseph Gerlach. Andy, our son and his wife Stephanie and their adorable baby, Jackson came in from Los Angeles as well as all of Jimmy’s family from Philadelphia.

Adrienne and Jim asked “big” Andy to be the baby’s godfather and Beth, Jimmy’s sister to be godmother. The baby was christened at a 150 year old church in Boston’s Back Bay area that had recently been restored to its original grandeur. Of course I figured they mounted a capital fund raising campaign to restore it once they knew little Andy was born, but I found out the plan had been in the works for the last few years. Apparently they knew my family would need it soon enough. The church is stunningly beautiful and the pastor amazing.

Adrienne and Jim requested the baptism be part of the mass, so our baby (and another gorgeous baby, Maya) were both anointed with oil at the start of the mass, then the official christening took place midway through. We all walked down the center aisle and watched as Andy held little Andy as the priest poured water on his sweet bald head. He wore his daddy’s christening dress, complete with eyelet coat and satin shoes with crosses. Both babies were so wonderful and at the end of the ceremony, the priest held both of them high into the air and welcomed them into the Catholic community. Seriously, there were way more people crying than just me and Jimmy’s mom. At least I think they were – they may have been crying since the ceremony lasted so long!

Afterwards, Jim and Adie hosted a wonderful brunch. We enjoyed visiting with all their family and friends and toasted the new baby. Baby Andy never stopped smiling (or drooling) and it was a day to remember. It is very rare for Mike and me to see both our children and now their children together so it was doubly special for us.


86 and Driving 4 More Years

Well, here you go – Mom’s birthday is coming up in early March and last week she went to take her driving test as her license was expiring. Guess what? The streets of Northern Ohio better look out because Mom passed her eye exam and she is cleared for ANOTHER FOUR YEARS.

This means Mom can drive until she is NINETY YEARS OLD. She was so excited to tell me her good news. Mom has a hearing problem and “one bad eye” as she puts it, but the state of Ohio apparently thought she had the talent to renew her license. Of course, there is no actual driving test with the parallel parking bit that gave me fits at 16, but she did have to pass the eye exam.

A few months ago she finally asked her doctor for a handicapped sticker for her car since her ability to walk long distances is failing, but boy, she held out as long as she could. She has new plans now – she is going all the way out to San Francisco to visit my sister, she has ANOTHER ladies group to lunch with and who cares if all her friends have health problems –dementia, heart disease to name a few. She prays for them, visits them and then off she goes to the hairdresser, lunch appointments, the Moose Lodge for bingo and doughnuts, all the while keeping her sense of humor intact.

Just one word of caution – don’t be calling Mom on a Saturday night at 7, the Lawrence Welk Show is on and there is no answering the phone for her.

I know our family is so blessed to have Mom and we really are so thankful for her. May all of you with elderly Moms have the good fortune we have!


An Upside Down Valentine Cake

Mike and I went to a small gathering last week and I brought dessert as my contribution. Since Valentine’s Day is so close, I thought I would use my heart shaped cake pans that I’ve had for many years.

I made a pineapple upside down cake, using both cake pans, so I really made two small cakes. Moist, delicious and fun to do!

Here is my recipe:

Pineapple Upside Down Cake

½ c. melted butter
1 c. packed brown sugar
One 20 ounce can pineapple slices in juice, drained, reserving juice
Maraschino cherries
½ c. chopped walnuts
1 pkg. yellow cake mix
Oil and eggs as called for on cake directions

This recipe will make a 13x9 cake or two 9” cakes. If you are making the two cake pan version, just divide all the ingredients between the two cakes – the butter, pineapple, sugar and nuts – then split the cake batter between each pan.

Grease and flour each pan or use a cooking spray to coat. Pour melted butter into the pan, then sprinkle the brown sugar and nuts on top of the butter. Lay the pineapple slices into this mixture, with a cherry in the center of each slice.

Add enough water to the reserved pineapple juice to make 1 ¼ c. Then make the cake batter using the juice, oil and eggs as the pkg. requires. Pour the batter over the prepared pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes or until toothpick in center comes out clean. Immediately turn pan onto a serving dish or tray and leave pan on cake 1 minute. Serve warm or cooled with whipped topping.

This is my valentine to all of you this year!


Ham and Bean Soup Deluxe

You need to buy a bone-in ham, about 3-4 lbs. I try to buy the smallest one I can find since they are all pretty big and pricey.

1 bag Great Northern beans
1 ½ tsp. paprika
4-5 carrots, peeled and sliced (sort of chunky)
2 onions, chopped
2 cans chicken broth
Crushed red pepper flakes
A nice baguette

Place the beans in a large stockpot, cover with water, add one chopped onion and paprika and cover the pan. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer. Meanwhile, take the ham and start cutting off the meat. Most of this will go in the soup, but there will be a lot left over for sandwiches, quiche, etc. You are trying to remove the ham, leaving the bone, fat, etc, to flavor the soup. I cut the ham into small cubes until I get about 2 c. The remainder I leave I big pieces for another meal or the freezer.

When the beans begin to boil, add the ham bone, fats, skin, etc. to the water. Cover with the chicken broth and more water if needed. Add ½ tsp. pepper. The cubed ham will be added later. Ok, now comes the time part. The beans will take about 2 hours to soften, but that time is good for the flavor – the ham bone is in the pot too and all of its flavor will come out.

When the beans are soft, remove the ham bone, fats, skin, etc. and discard. Add the other chopped onion, the cubed ham, carrots and red pepper flakes. Continue to cook about an hour until carrots and onion are tender and the ham absorbs the flavor of the broth.

Serve with a new sprinkle of red pepper and a delicious biscuit or baguette slices.


Los Angeles - a Trip to Remember

A few weeks ago, Mike and I traveled to Los Angeles to visit our son, daughter-in-law and grandson, Jackson. Well, we had the best time ever. The weather in upstate NY when we left was about 10 degrees and our week in LA was perfect –78 degrees each and every day.

My sister Bonnie, who lives in N. California, came for the weekend and Stephanie took us on the grand Hollywood tour. Andy and Steph have lived out there for 6 years and Stephanie has worked for a producer and was an assistant to a TV/movie star – so she knows where to go and how to get there, no easy feat in the LA traffic.

The weekend we were there the Golden Globes celebration was taking place, so we went to the Beverly Hilton for lunch and got to see the whole red carpet set up. We saw Guiliana Ranic from “Entertainment Tonight” (totally thin and sort of pretty), Brad, Rachel Zoe’s ex-assistant sporting his usual bow tie, Christina Hendricks from “Mad Men” and so many others. We saw the people lined up for interviews with signs around their necks of stars’ names so the interviewers could practice their questions, but the best thing of all was we got to see the “red carpet” and took a cute picture of Jackson.

On the “drive-by” tour Stephanie took us on, we saw “Starlight Search” vans loaded with tourists gawking at the homes of TV and movie stars. We were too cool for that, with our own personal tour guide. Stephanie showed us where Jay Leno lived, (huge, huge and gorgeous), Penelope Cruz, (small home on a regular street) and where Tom Cruise holds Katie Holmes captive and so many others.

Alas, eventually we had a tearful good bye, and back to NY we came. We will be seeing Jackson, Andy and Stephanie again in March in Boston, when we all gather for Andy Gerlach’s christening! Can’t wait!!


A Shrimp's Dip

Happy New Year everyone!! To start the new year off right I have a new dip recipe for you. We call it “A SHRIMP’S DIP” since it is Mom’s recipe and she is a true shrimp at only 5’ tall. I took it to a party this past weekend and so many people asked me for the recipe. I gave all of them my blog address and promised it would appear this week.

A Shrimp's Dip

1 can tomato soup, undiluted
8 oz. cream cheese
I packet Knox unflavored gelatin
½ c. cold water
1c. mayonnaise
1c. diced celery
1c. diced celery
12 oz small cooked shrimp

In a pan, heat soup until it boils on low heat. Break up the cream cheese into chunks and add to soup, stirring or whisking until cheese is melted and the soup and cheese are blended well. Remove from the heat. Dissolve the gelatin in the cold water and add to the soup mixture. Add the mayonnaise, celery, onion and shrimp and pour into a bowl and let it sit in refrigerator for at least 4 hours. This can be made ahead, like the day before or early in the day of your party.

Mom always served this with Bugles corn chips which I have had a difficult time finding in Rochester so I just used plain corn chips. Tostito’s “scoops” work great.

**Becky Knows Everything: Mom will often cook and clean her own larger shrimp and chop them but I find if you buy the frozen small ones (not the tiny bay shrimp as they are too “fishy”) the results are good. Just run them under cold water until they thaw, then pat them dry with paper towels before you add them to the dip. The small frozen shrimp I use come in 1 lb. bags and this is really too much - so use about 2/3rds of the bag and use the rest for another recipe, salad, etc.

Also, Mom usually puts this in a mold, like a star mold for Christmas, but I think it is difficult to dip your bugle into this, so I transfer it into a pretty bowl and sort of chop it up with a spoon so it looks fluffy.