Thursday, July 18, 2013



  Sometimes I feel like Gollum/Smeagal from Lord of the Rings with his "precious." I have a terrible time throwing anything out and a conversation that I play in my mind goes something like this while going through a box of clothes that has stuff from the 60's-80's:
I need to throw this out!
NO! I can put this stuff on eBay and get some cash for it!
Really? Is it worth the time and effort to make twenty or thirty dollars?
It's WORTH something!
Don't be stupid, just bring it to the Salvation Army and someone who likes vintage stuff will be thrilled with their find.
Well, maybe, just let me go through it one more time - Oh NO! I remember wearing this at _insert any band/artist's name here_ the concert - such good times, how can I get rid of this!
Just get rid of it!
Hmm...maybe I should put it on Craigslist - that's local and I still can make some money.
Yeah, and how long are you going to let it be listed - I know you, it will sit there for months again! Why don't you put it on freecycle?
Maybe I can cut it up and use the material in a vintage look quilt....
Linda! You have more fabric than a whole quilt group can use in their lifetime! That's something else you need to plan to get rid of!

And so it goes. I am a hoarder - not hardcore like you see on the show hoarders, but if I let it go, I am afraid I could end up there. I have been trying to figure out why I do this. It wasn't so bad as a teen - my mother made sure of that. When things started taking over my room, she dumped all my drawers onto my bed so I would go through it and get my room in order. In those days it was mostly teen magazines, pix of The Beatles, The Rascals and other bands. I didn't have a ton of clothes or shoes, I was just kind of sloppy. My mom and dad were neat freaks, so I am sure it killed them to have a distracted collector in their home. When I got my own apartment, it was kept pretty clean- I didn't have too much extra cash and I was too busy working by day and acting by night. When I got married, all I took with me to Illinois fit in the back of an El Camino one of my hubby's friend's drove and the "precious" stuff was in the trunk of my Mustang, which we took on our honeymoon.

Our first place was a half of a house that had been used by Al Capone as a bank and a Cathouse. It had 2 bedrooms and a funny little room in the back (which is probably where the house was cut in two when the other half was moved down the road) off the bathroom that was tiny - maybe 7x4- that had a long closet on the one side. That became my place to put things we didn't know what to do with, seasonal clothing and excess whatever. You could walk into it and around it, it wasn't too bad. So the problem still hadn't reared it's ugly head.

Things were tight and jobs were scarce so we emigrated to Canada where there was work. It took the back part of a moving van to move, so when we settled into our little log cabin, things were cool. Then along came our first child and friend's who passed along things their kids had outgrown, or toys they weren't using, and little by little the second story of the barn on our property started accumulating bags of clothes and toys. We were so far from town that there wasn't garbage pickup - we had to drive 3 miles to what was called "the exchange" to dump our stuff into a large dumpster which was picked up weekly. It was called "the exchange" because, like us, there were a lot of young couples with little cash who didn't want to throw away something perfectly good when they were done with it - early recycling if you will - so, they would leave whatever they had next to the dumpster in hopes someone else could use it. It became almost a game for my husband - he hated to see waste, so he often dumpster dived to find wood and tools and other oddball stuff which he would bring home and would take residence in the bottom of the barn where he had his workshop. He had been laid off after 2 years, so money was once again tight as we lived on unemployment and found things even tighter as I learned I was pregnant a day or two before he lost his job. By the time we moved back to the US, we needed to have a garage sale to get rid of all the excess - all that stuff we had picked up or was given to use over the four years we lived there netted us $5,000! Maybe that was the start of my thinking I shouldn't say no when people offered me something, because for us, money was always tight. We lived paycheck to paycheck and never had a savings account, it's just the way life happened for us.

Things were in control and good the first little while we were back in the US, but then hubby once again lost his job when the place he worked closed its doors. It took another 5 months to find a job, so those offered bags started coming in once again. I was sewing the kids clothes at this point and doing a lot of crafting to try to sell for more money - we didn't have eBay, Etsey or ArtFire back then - heck, we didn't have computers at that point, so finding an outlet to sell from just didn't happen, and the projects went into a bag in the attic. After our son was born, I was working with three different sizes and both sexes, so there were a lot of boxes going into the attic for the girls. The boys stuff I did get rid of at yard sales. I started working with 4H and the other kids in our group came from families like ours, so crafting materials were dear and I saved whatever was left after finishing our projects - oh yeah, and the projects too, because my children made them - how could I throw them away - and what was I going to do with their artwork after the fridge became covered? Why, take it down and put it in a box in the attic - My kids are now 27-34 and those boxes moved with us in 98 to where we live now.

We finally were able to buy a home in 98 and got rid of a lot of stuff before the move, but I can safely say other than getting rid of children's clothes (tho I did save their homecoming and christening gowns as well as crocheted blankets and sweaters made by family members) those boxes of fabric, craft supplies and hubby's collection, made the trip with us. When I looked for some material to make a blanket for my grandson a few years ago, I found fabric I had bought to when a Fabric Bonanza went out of business in 1979 to make his mother some baby clothes, which I never used and moved with us from Illinois, to  Canada, to New York and now this move - they are still in the attic, along with cloth bought at another sewing center's close out back around 1990 - anyone for parachute pants or those colorful pull on pants from the 90's? I have the patterns...

My husband was injured the day we moved into our home, so we were pretty much penniless until workman's comp and social security disability kicked in. He was hurt so badly, he never worked again.
Guess what I did?? Accepted bags of clothes for my kids, games, material (like I really needed more) and other oddball things I was sure I could find a use for. I just can't stand seeing anything useful thrown away. My daughter has the same predilections I have and couldn't bear to get rid of anything she "owned". So, when she married, fully 1/4 of the attic went with her and it looked pretty good up there - but I still had two at home and their stuff went into the attic for decisions to be made when they married. Meanwhile, I had discovered scrap-booking and quilting and of course that meant buying the tools needed for both and more cloth because the cloth I had wasn't the kind you used in quilting. Quilting fabric has become something funny/weird for me - just looking at cloth, touching it and imagining what I could make with it is like balm for my spirit - picked it up when it was low. So I started looking for material at yard sales and hit the big time when I came across boxes and boxes at one sale of an elderly lady who was a quilter and had passed away. Not much of it sold, and the daughter let me take it all home the next day, because, unlike me, she could let things go. Guess where it went? Yup, the attic, where it currently resides. I have used some of it, but I have a lot of trouble with organizing my days and somehow, I rarely get to what I want to do each day.

My son got married, but was in a small apartment, so his things remained. He has since bought a house, but until he gets a staircase to his basement, they reside here. And we have added a crib for our place, playpen and all the paraphernalia you need when a baby is small - thankfully, number two is incubating, so it will leave again for a while. Luckily, other than these larger items, my daughter in law gets rid of things regularly, so there are no clothes here. My daughter moved out long ago, but was always in apartments and lived several states away, so her things remained as well. Now she is married and whenever we go to visit her, we bring some of her stuff out with us. It's funny what kids collect when they are young thinking they will either need or use in their future. My daughter kept all of her babysitter club books - about 100 of them. They are still in the attic but will be leaving soon as she asked me to get rid of them. The Little House on the Prairie books will remain till we see if she has a daughter...they were her favorites growing up. Our son still has all his Winnie the Pooh books, but they are now being read to his daughter.

So, our attic is full - and maybe for you to accept the enormity of this., let me explain it is a full third floor to our house and about 50x30. So, we have the leftovers that will eventually go to the kids, my fabric and craft collections, hubby's books, and stuff from his mom and grandfather, and magazines, some family things we can't bear to get rid of, Christmas decorations, and the aforementioned baby items -

I also have two closets like this
which hold vintage mink coats I got for free figuring I could re-purpose them.  I have given some away, the others, well, if I don't start making something with them soon, they are going on freecycle, maybe someone else is better organized than I.
I have been working diligently to get my craft room in order - I bought lots of plastic shoe boxes which I have filled and labeled appropriately 
This however, is the rest of the craft room which i have not been able to work in for weeks due to above 90 degree temps upstairs. It looks like this right now
Hopefully, when the weather breaks next week I can get back up there and finish the job so I can start sewing again. What's left to organize is not overwhelming like it was when I started.

So, there you have it, my worst quality out there for you to see. But, maybe you are struggling with this too - I know I am not the only one out there because I have friends in worse shape - interestingly enough, they are all creative types. I think I have finally figured out why I do this, and that's huge because I believe it will pave the way for me to unload. My one daughter says when we die, she is just getting a dumpster and tossing things out of the attic. I don't want that to happen: a. because I don't want to have to make her do this and b. there are some special things up there I want to pass along like my Hallmark ornaments. Anyway, I digress, I do believe what is at the heart of this is money woes for a long time. We are doing well money wise for the first time in our lives. Other than our mortgage we are finally debt free. So, there is no reason to keep little bits and pieces for crafting. If I want to make something, these days, for the most part, I can buy the supplies I need. I am hoping this will help the Gollum voice in my head and let me be free from this. Are you are closet hoarder? I hope it helps to know you are not alone, good middle class people struggle with this, and not everyone's hoard looks like "hoarders" on TV. I believe I can break this hold even tho it will take a bit of time, and I have been getting rid of a few boxes every week - I finally decided freecycle was the best way - it makes me feel better because I am not throwing something useable away. If no one sends me a post that they want it, then it goes in the garbage, because if even a freecycler doesn't want it, then no one wants it!

Happy throwing away/recycling etc to you all! It's too bad there isn't a Hoarders Anonymous - but I expect it would be much like Overeater's Anonymous where all anyone ever talks about is food! God bless!

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring has finally sprung!

I didn't think Spring was ever going to come this year - every time there was a little nibble of a nice day, it was followed by a rapid drop in temperature and several bad days. From what I have seen, its been crazy all over the US! I think Kansas got more snow than we did! We traveled out to Kansas in March to see our daughter's ordination. We weren't three hours from home when we hit snow, which followed us all the way to our first stop in Ohio. Luckily we only had some little burst of snow the rest of the way out there. Normally Kansas is a bit warmer than upstate New York, but we had so much snow Palm Sunday that we couldn't make it out to church - probably the first time I have missed Palm Sunday in my life!

Once home 4 weeks  and 4,500 miles later, I was eager to start gardening. Usually in April I go to several of our local nurseries to look at their stock of bushes and flowers that can be planted early. I really want to get one of the newer everblooming hydrangeas like Vanilla Strawberry or Endless Summer
Sadly I haven't sound any locally - nor could I find "Happy Chappy" groudcover roses  - only two places carry them, and i didn't move fast enough to buy them - isn't that always the way? For years I have wanted the Happy Chappy Rose tree, but never had the money to buy it. This year I finally have a bit to spend and I still can't get it - isn't it lovely though? I hope next year I can jump on this - someone told me Jackson& Perkins went bankrupt - I really hope that isn't so. At any rate, I bought a Chicago Peace rose, a beautiful yellow rosebush and a fragrant red.                                      

Happy Chappy Groundcover Rose My garden hasn't been particularly good for roses in the past - I keep getting that black spot fungus no matter how much I spray, but this year I have pre-sprayed them for the fungus, got rid o the really pathetic ones that only have one branch left and am hoping against hope to have some beauties to cut this summer.

That being said, as soon as the sun popped its head out, I went immediately to my heirloom cabbage rose bush to clean it out. When we first moved here 15 years ago, there was this little ring of roses around the front tree. Our neighbor said she had tried many years to get it to spread, but never had any luck. I don't have the greenest thumb, that award goes to my mom, but I do pretty well. So I set about to clean up what was there and said a little prayer. Well, have they blossomed - they are taking over not only my driveway area, but spreading over to my lovely neighbor with the brown thumb! I try very hard to attend them every spring, but I must admit it has been two years since I did any work out there -I planned on it last year, but my daughter was getting married in September and time just slipped past. What I was left with was a huge mass of unruly branches with dead and broken branches holding down the live ones - then I also had to deal with about 6 inches of leaves from the past two fall seasons as well as a few Maple trees that have invaded! I have been out there every day for a week now and am finally done.

I had some lovely things happen while I was out there working away - my neighbor came over and told me that he watches me out there most every year slaving away and knew that it was a labor of love for me - and it is. Another lady came by and asked if she paid me, could she have a few branches to plant - she had smelled them a few years ago coming out of the funeral home from her mom's wake. The scent immediately brought her back to the house she lived in as a child and made her think of her mother. She has spent the past two years trying to find the same plant to put in her garden with no luck. Of course I said yes, but that she should just take some for free. She came by Sunday to dig them up and left us a beautiful apple pie as a thank you. Yesterday, a friend asked could she have a few as well. I am happy to share them - they have brought me so much happiness every spring as I sit on the porch and drink in the lovely scent.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Hi folks
just going on a bit of a hiatus - lots going on and just not enough time to do this right - will be back in the spring sometime!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Beef Barley Mushroom Soup

Even though we pretty much escaped the big Nor'easter this weekend, its still pretty cold out. I have had a yen for beef barley soup for ages now, but have never had just the right recipe. My brother used to run a restaurant and made amazing beef barley, but I never seem to remember to ask him for his recipe. was time for me to make my own. I think it turned out really good - the addition of mushrooms gives it a nice flavor and adding the tomatoes at the last minute gives it a nice kick instead of mushy tomatoes and a strong tomato base.
Serves 6-8


  • 2/3 cup medium pearl barley
  • 1 1/2 lbs beef neck bones
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 8 oz mushrooms with stems removed and sliced
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder (or i medium onion)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 leaf bay
  • 1 8 oz can diced tomatoes 

1. Add bones, barley, spices, and vegetables EXCEPT tomatoes to crockpot.

2. Cook for 6-8 hours

3. Remove bones and cut meat off, add them back to crockpot with the tomatoes   
4. Serve with hearty whole grain bread

Nutrition Facts
Beef Barley Mushroom Soup
Servings Per Recipe: 8
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 286
  • Total Fat: 14.8 g
  •     Saturated Fat: 5.8 g
  •     Trans Fat: 0 g
  • Cholesterol: 52.8 mg
  • Sodium: 114.8 mg
  • Total Carbs: 19.4 g
  •     Dietary Fiber: 4.6 g
  •     Sugars: 3.2 g
  • Protein: 19.2 g

Saturday, January 26, 2013

An Athlete, Olympian and True Hero

                       The Life and Times of Charlotte Rickert Stengel

This past Sunday night a true hero died. There was no fanfare, no television coverage of her death, no stories in People or Wall Street Journal...and that is a shame. With all the brouhaha  over Lance Armstrong - his victories, his battle with cancer, the did he or didn't he take performance enhancing drugs, and the final confessions on Oprah, we gave a lot of time to someone who was never a hero. It seems to be the story of our times. Athletes rise, athletes lie or do stupids things, athletes fall; so few really become any kind of role models. I can think of a few - Kristi Yamaguchi, Scott Hamilton, Tim Tebow...there are still some around, but I really want to share with you the story of Charlotte Rickert.

Charlotte was born in Germany October 31, 1919 to a circus family. Her father Richard was a known weightlifter, her mother was Elisabeth Nufer. From the time she was an infant, her father prepared her to be a performer, balancing her on his hands as soon as she could stand. He was a weightlifter of rank,and systematically trained her from childhood - especially with expanders

"Ladies and gentlemen, girls and boys, and kids of all ages ... may I direct your attention to the center ring and the death-defying feats of Miss Charlotte Rickert, the youngest acrobat on earth!" shouted the circus ringmaster.It was 1921, and the German-born Charlotte was only 2 1/ 2 years old." (footnote 1)

The family became quite famous and performed before royalty. Richard started training Charlotte as a gymnast and also had her work with weights.

As the years passed, she became an expert performer, not only tumbling and somersaulting far above the ring, but also juggling, dancing and singing for cheering crowds.When she was 14, Charlotte was billed as "The World's Strongest Girl," and she and her family entertained Europe's nobility and heads-of-states. She also made two movie appearances in 1939.(footnote 1)

 In 1935, Charlotte played the Wintergarden in Berlin with a troupe of performers.The revue featured an array of young performers ranging from singers, dancers, and musicians, to acrobats and circus performers, all of them children. Charlotte, at fifteen, was billed as the world's strongest woman, and performed feats of strength, highlighted by her challenging the strongest men that could be found in the audience to pull a high-tension spring-expander. At sixteen, she already managed an expander with 300 kg clamping force. Unlike many 'of her predecessors, Charlotte was virtually a "petite Personnel," which won with teen-fresh charm the sympathy of the audience. Charlotte comes in a bout 5' tall. Shortly after,  she pulled an 800 pound tram spring and took on five men at once to prove her extraordinary strength in a career that conquered all important stages between 1935 and 1946. (footnote 2)

In 1936, Charlotte went to the Olympics to compete in weightlifting. There was no category for women at that time, and she actually lifted more than the men. She was awarded a gold medal.

The war started soon after and Charlotte was pressed into service, entertaining the troops on the Russian front. During the war, her mother was wounded and Charlotte carried her mother through the woods for four days until they reached safety, eventually ending up in Poland. The Rickert's fame, success and wealth ended abruptly with the onset of Nazism and World War II and, when the war took a turn for the worse for Germany, the family became separated. Newspapers even told the world that they had died. Charlotte told me her family lost everything during the war, even to the point of her having no shoes. Someone saw that and gave her some shoes, and she made a promise to herself that day, that if she ever saw someone in need, she would help them. The family was eventually reunited and later, in Wiesbaden, Germany, after the American forces arrived, "The Charlotte Rickert Show" performed before the Allied High Command and the troops. This is where Charlotte met her husband, American Special Services' officer George Stengel, who was a promoter, and after marrying, in 1947 they came to America. Nineteen months later, their son George arrived.

Charlotte was enjoying her new family life when her siblings begged her to rejoin them so the show could become established in America. She finally agreed and performed again for a year in 1950. While performing one day in Pennsylvania, she heard shouts and went running to find a blaze coming from her trailer. She dashed inside and quickly passed her 19 month old son out to waiting arms. Confused by the smoke, she couldn't find the trailer's door. Receiving burns over 75 per cent of her body, she hovered near death for weeks. Although she hadn't been especially religious before, she now looked to her faith during her long and painful recovery. 

After all this, money was tight and Charlotte was not afraid of work. She worked as a chambermaid and did other menial labor to help put food on the table. She had not forgotten her promise to help those in need, and soon the Stengel's house was filled with both strangers and neighbors who needed a place to sleep or a good meal. Her husband and family accepted her passion for helping others. She started a food pantry in her home and that led her into finding furniture and clothing for the needy as well. Many times, she found jobs for people. As time went on, her food pantry outgrew her home and she turned to her church to see about starting one there. It wasn't long before she had things up and running at Resurrection Lutheran Church in Cairo, NY, working five days a week recruiting volunteers, collecting donations, feeding the hungry and working with other programs to distribute cheese, honey, cornmeal and other staples to these families. She spent many hours on the road delivering furniture and often logged in 17,000 miles of back roads driving a year.

At one point, she was in a terrible car accident which resulted in a broken disc in her back. Even that hardly deterred her as she quickly jumped back into action even though she was still undergoing physical therapy. She wasn't a young woman at the time - she was 73! I remember she could move full bookcases that even our young pastor couldn't move! Charlotte worked with the storehouse until she could no longer physically manage and at 90, she finally slowed down. The storehouse feeds well over 3,000 people a year. Charlotte gave over 60 years of her life in service to other people.

Charlotte has won all kinds of awards for her work - In 2008, she won the Tyson Foods Hunger All-Star of the Month Award.  Charlotte’s dedication to fighting hunger is inspiring,” said Ed Nicholson, director of community relations for Tyson Foods. “If each local community had volunteers who gave a fraction of what Charlotte has for our nation’s hungry, I believe we could win in the fight against hunger in this country."

I stayed with her one Sunday so her caregiver could go to church and found it to be one of the most interesting days of my life. I was able to see her photos from her circus days, her gold medal and talk to her about her achievements. While the Olympics was a very special time for her, she was more interested in talking about the poor. However, as frail as she was, she said to me, "Would you like to see what I can still do?" I said, "Of course!" and she took her leg and pulled it straight over her head!

Charlotte spent the last 2 years of her life in a nursing home, but there are very few people in this town who haven't been touched by her humbleness and her driving force in helping the needy. As I said, this lady is a true hero and role model! Spread the word! We need more people with her heart.


2.  Jugglers 1947

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Last night my husband and I watched the movie Monumental. I am a bit of a history buff, so I was looking forward to it. My husband's ancestor Abraham Pierce came here on the ship Ann in 1623, the third ship to come with Pilgrims/Puritans/Separatists to Massachusetts. As a mom who homeschooled her children, we had spent quite a bit of time studying the Pilgrims. If you ask my son what he remembers, he will inevitably talk about Squanto the Indian and how he came to a Pilgrim's house and asked for beer - that always cracked him up. We always hoped to go to Plimouth Plantation and Boston to trace our family roots, but somehow this never happened - probably because money was always tight and to my knowledge our only family vacation was to D.C. one year.

The film follows the Pilgrims from their start in England, why they split from the church, their attempt to go to Holland to escape the king, their capture, release and second journey to Holland. There were a lot of interesting facts. I knew they had tried once to escape imprisonment by King James and that the boat captain they had hired ratted them out. I did not know about the second attempt where they sent their wives and children on a raft down a river so they wouldn't get caught while the men went to the boat. The ladies got stuck on a sand bar and were captured. The men's boat got caught in a storm as they went to get the ladies, and were tossed at sea for 2 weeks. Apparently 100 other ships were caught in the same storm which pulled them up toward Norway, and they were the only ship to survive. They went on to Leyden, Holland and their wives after being released got there a year later. I won't tell you all that was on the DVD - I could never remember it all and I really would encourage you to watch it as the extras are amazing. At any rate, after a false start, the Mayflower finally set sail for America. Their main goal was to start a settlement and spread the Gospel. Of the 102 passengers, 47 died that first winter - mostly women. I can't imagine the heartbreak and hardship they endured. It speaks of their relationship with the Indians and there is a nice interview with a Harvard professor about the roots of Harvard.

They bring you to the Plymouth Monument - the largest free standing granite monument in the USA, now tucked in the cul de sac of a neighborhood in Plymouth overlooking the ocean

The film then tells more stories about colonial America and the signers of the Declaration of Independence. It puts to rest the idea that the signers were deists and not Christian, showing many original manuscripts in the collection of Historian David Barton. They speak with a niece of Dr. Martin Luther King, a congressman and other scholars.

In short, if you are at all interested in American History and the true story, I would recommend this film. It does come from a Christian perspective, but gives solid evidence for each part of the journey. It may surprise you! It is available on, possibly from your interlibrary loan and from the producers

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

German Genealogy

Don't you just love this photo? It's of my great-grandparents and taken probably in 1907 when they married. He (Peter Riess) was originally from Konigsburg in East Prussia, but somewhere along the line moved to Leipzig in Saxony where he married his first wife Anna Marie Julie (no idea of her last name) and had two children (no names for these two either). In April of 1882, he boarded the Suevia and arrived in the port of New York at Castle Garden on the 28th. I have never found any arrival for his wife and children and yet I know they did arrive. So many of the records before Ellis Island are hit and miss. There are several members of my family who arrived in New York pre-1888, but I have yet to find them on any of the databases available.

He was a furrier and built quite an impressive house alongside the Bronx River with a workshop in back. He employed several men and women there who helped with the process of getting the furs tanned and ready to be made into coats, stoles and hats. He looked to have a very nice life there. In 1899 he was the first person in the Bronx to buy a Winton touring car - the only other person in New York with one was a Rockefeller! He bought several Wintons over the years - here he is in one of them. I believe it was an 1899 Winton Stanhope. I am guessing this is his first wife and two children, it is the only plausible idea.
 He owned several over the years - one had bright red wheel rims and apparently sat in his garage long past his death in 1937.

He and his first wife held several patents regarding boats and marine ideas - the family lore says he invented the bilge pump, but a friend stole the idea and got to the patent office before him. Somewhere around 1903, his wife and two children died. Again, a mystery. I am pretty sure they were on a visit to Leipzig when it happened but haven't yet found the information as I have no names for the children. Thant information seems to have been lost.

My great grandmother (Ernestine Liedke) was a young women who worked for him in the factory. She was from a small town that was German, but in Poland,under Russian rule. That sounded crazy to me growing up, but she was very adamant that they were Germans! Eventually, in my searching, I found what she said was true. Her town was called Witoczyn, although it has a Polish name now and I recently was able to find it on  Google Maps - to me that is incredible! She was 36 years younger than he, but in 1907 they married. They had three children just as the depression was starting. His home on the Bronx River was torn down to make way for the Bronx River Parkway, and he bought an apartment building as well as a two family home over the ensuing years. Sadly, he had invested in Vienna bonds and lost a lot of money and by the time my great aunt married, his apartment building was so empty, they had her wedding reception in  one of the apartments.  He died in 1937, leaving my great grandmother with one child still at home. I don't think my grandmother was ever able to grasp not being well to do after the depression, she talked about it until she died.

One of my goals this year, is to find those records for Konigsburg and Witoczyn and find more information regarding both of their families.

Monday, January 7, 2013


Here is a recent photo of me and my favorite singer Keith Harkin!News
As you can see, it would take just about 2 of Keith to make one of me!

I've been thinking about the differences between the words resolution and resolved, so  I decided to look them up
resolution - the action of resolving to do something

resolved - fixed in purpose, firmly determined, resolute

Hmmm, they really are pretty close in meaning, but the difference I see is one is making a decision and the other is standing firm in that decision. So, I don't want to make a resolution this year, because I rarely keep them. I mean to, but as the months fly by, they sort of drop off into space somewhere. This year, I need to be resolved!
I have been carrying a great load of weight for way too long now. I am morbidly obese.All my fault, really. I mean, I can make all sorts of excuses for letting this happen - pregnancies, small bouts of depression, junk from my past, living in an area where it seems the people I know are all overweight...none of that gives me permission to ruin my body. Every year I watch Biggest Loser and find it so inspiring - but I watch it while I am snacking, vowing that I am going to do this...and I never do. I don't eat humongous meals like the contestants I see. My problem is snacking.  I get close, last year I lost 30 pounds and went to the gym 3-5 days a week, but you can firm up all you want, and it still doesn't take weight off your body unless you are dieting as well. I have tried a lot of fad diets, no luck there - my hubby keeps saying the only way to lose weight is to stop eating so much and to exercise. He's right. There is no easy way. My doctor keeps telling me I am a good candidate for bariatric surgery, but I don't want to do something that changes my insides and never lets me enjoy a dessert again. I want to learn to eat responsibly.  Funny, I am listening to K-Love radio and they just had a woman on talking about weight loss and she said, God made food for us to consume, not food to consume us! How true.

All this weight has taken a toll on my knees. They have gotten worse every year and I am so frightened of losing the ability to walk. It didn't matter when I was in my 30's, 40's or even the beginning of my 50's. Then one day I tore a muscle running down the subway stairs in New York City. I started to favor that knee and soon enough the other started bothering me.That was in 2004. Every year since then I seem to have lost a little more mobility, a little more strength. Now I walk with a cane, knee braces and a little hydrocodone just to go shopping, and by the time I am done, I am ready to cry with the pain. This is not a way to live! I went on a cruise last year and couldn't do anything more than walk the few blocks near the boat! I felt like I wasted a wonderful opportunity. I want to go into New York City with my sisters, or to the zoo with my grandchildren. If I don't do this, who is going to help my husband as he gets older? He is already in a wheel chair due to injuries from his job and post polio syndrome. I see how hard it is to move my mother-in-law in the nursing home and think who the heck is going to be able to move me if I live a long time (which is the norm for my family), it would be near impossible.

I joined today. I have done a lot of homework looking into different plans and what works - even Consumer Reports had an article this month regarding the various programs. If I had money, I would do Medifast or Jenny Craig, but who the heck has that kind of money? I certainly don't! And if you get your meals pre-packaged, what about your family?? I still have to cook for my husband, so it really isn't practical for me - and again, does this kind of eating teach you how to be responsible for making your meals for the rest of your life??? I can't take any of the pills that give you energy or help you lose weight, blood pressure is a problem - so far, my only problem other than my weight, which is a real blessing. I also have a bodybugg to help me keep track of how many calories I am burning and how many steps I am walking.

So I am resolved that this will be the year I get healthy. I will walk every day, starting small and adding a bit every few days. I will exercise and I will eat responsibly. If I fail, I fail in front of all reading this - that's pretty embarrassing, and may be the one thing that keeps me resolved! I will keep you updated on how I am doing. If this man can do it, so can I!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Les Mis


It was our anniversary yesterday, so hubby agreed to take me to see Les Mis. This is a big thing  because, being a good Scotsman and penny pincher, we rarely go. He would much rather wait till a movie is on DVD so he won't have to spend as much money! As a bonus, he also decided to take me out to dinner! Score!

Oh my gosh! I cannot even begin to put in words how much the movie affected me. I've read the Victor Hugo book, listened to the CD, watched most of the 10th and 25th anniversary shows on PBS, and nothing compared to this. I felt like I was part of it. Everything was so realistic - the filth of the people, the whores and vagabonds, the scene where the convicts are bringing the ship into dry dock - just heart wrenching. To watch Hugh Jackman and Anne Hathaway change through the course of the movie was incredible. The attention to detail, like the missing tooth in Fantine's mouth, was superb.
Surely Hugh and Anne will be nominated for the Oscar, but really just about everyone was first rate.

I had a good giggle when I saw this on you tube - said on my facebook this would be me and the hubby - little did I know we would come close to it!

I just cried for the last 10 minutes. I had no idea it would hit me so hard  and I noticed hubby had tears streaming down his face during the revolution scene. We left the movie just drained, but in a good way, and so glad we had seen it on the "big" screen.

I think one of the most powerful scenes in the movie was this one

Anne Hathaway singing I Dreamed a Dream - wow! I have sung this song several times in concert, but I have never captured the intense feelings she showed. I understand that the songs were done in real time rather than in a studio and added in. The director felt this would give a much more realistic feel - it surely did. Hugh Jackman is known as a song and dance man and does a decent job. Is he Alfie Boe?

 Absolutely not, but his acting skill more than made up for his vocal deficiencies

I was impressed with Eddie Remayne. I had enjoyed him in My Week with Marilyn, but had no idea he had a background in musical theater. Samantha Banks was from the 25th Anniversary Celebration as Eponine and did a beautiful job as well.

Amanda Seyfried is a beautiful girl and I truly enjoyed her in Mama Mia!, but vocally, she left a bit to be desired. It wan't bad, but those high notes were a bit thin. Russell Crowe, well, he did a good job acting wise, but his voice had no power or warmth to it.. I think I might have preferred Gerard Butler - also not the  best vocally, but I think better than Crowe. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter were amazing - they portrayed those reprobates so well  - they half had you laughing and half had you sick over how disgusting they were as people. Little Daniel Huttlestone did a bang up job as Gavroche, the little street urchin, (spoiler alert) and his death started the crying jag! I also appreciated Aaron Tveit - an upstater like me - beautiful vocals.

Afterwards, went to our favorite dine - Ambrosia and had a lovely meal. We picked up some ice cream on the way home - a lovely end, to a wonderful day.