Monday, April 28, 2014

One Ringy Dingy...

So, the challenge this week is to write about the telephone...I cannot even think of that without thinking of Lily Tomlin's sketches as  Ernestine the telephone operator.
One of my first jobs after high school was working as an operator for the hospital I worked at. I worked in the admitting office, but they needed someone to cover the phones while the gals who worked there full time took lunch or breaks, so I volunteered for the job. I really enjoyed the fast pace of putting the trunks in and out of the proper channels although I did have a few funny moments - remember we are talking a hospital and one day I was chatting about some new shoes I had bought and answered saying, "Smithtown Shoes, May I help you?" Another time it was "Smithtown Pizza".  I looked at my co-worker in horror and sputtered an apology to the caller. Something that was done and probably wasn't right - well, okay, it definitely wasn't right, if you angled the line just so, you could listen in on the conversations...yeah, we did that - usually it was one of the really good looking docs who was having an affair- we would crack up silently as we listened - I'm sure today we would be fired for it, but back then, no one really cared! I was kind of sad when the old boards were phased out, they really were a lot of fun.

My dad and grandfather both worked for the New York Telephone Company, better known as "Ma Bell". Both worked there all their lives and ended up "Pioneers" which was reserved for those who put in 30 years or more. My dad started out as a lineman and worked his way up to Project Engineer; quite a feat for someone with a high school education - but back then, many places took those who were good workers and brought them up the ranks training them as they moved up. I remember there was a time where his lack of college became an issue and if I remember correctly, he offered to take a college exam and aced it. It was never brought up again. When I was in high school, there was a huge strike and he found himself riding shotgun in Harlem doing repair work in place of those who were out on strike. He had a few interesting episodes, but managed to stay safe and even rescued an old pedal singer sewing machine for my mom in one of those basements.

I am always amazed at the differences in how things were out west of Chicago where my husband grew up and the Bronx and Long Island where I grew up. My husband remembers using phones like this
and actually speaking to an operator and asking for someone else's line. My first phone looked  like this
How weird is that? The funny thing is we still have one upstairs in our bedroom and it works great!  He also had a party line, we had a single line.  I do remember when the princess phone came out - that was a big deal and my dad brought one home. My sister wanted one so badly!
Just before the World's Fair in New York 1964. my dad showed me the neatest thing when I was visiting his office in New York City - the picture phone!! It was going to be unveiled at the fair. I couldn't believe how cool it was - imagine using the phone and being able to see who you were talking to! I remember thinking people better not answer the phone coming out of a shower!!
One of the perks with my dad was always getting the newest and coolest phones. Another perk he had was free phone service for all of the US - that was huge back then as you paid dearly for any long distance - and that could mean from the Bronx to Long Island! He always made sure we didn't abuse the privilege, but I do remember him working some Saturdays during my short engagement to my hubby and connecting our two lines through the office so we could chat for free. Every now and then he would come back online and ask if we were through yet. It was a real blessing.

When we emigrated to Canada in 1979, we bought a place way out in the country. The only service out there was a party line...hard to believe they still had them. Each person on the line had a certain ring - two longs, two shorts, a long and a short or a short and a long. There was a young kid on our line that we knew was always listening in - I had a good laugh when I realized he grew up to become a well known Country Western singer! When we moved back to the US, we once again lived outside of town and amazingly, that particular stretch, still had the party line. For a while we shared it with our neighbor because the rates were lower if you shared and when she changed to a single line, we were the last ones in the area still keeping the party line and rates even though we had no one to share it with.

The house we bought in 1998, where we still live, came with a wall phone in the kitchen like this. Since our home is 80 years old, we decided to keep it. It is amazing how few children have seen one of these - we loved it when our kid's friends would ask to use the phone - they would invariably come back looking confused and tell us that something was wrong with the phone because nothing pushed in - even pondering it, they never came up with the idea to turn the dial!

So here we are in the age of  Iphones and androids and now I am the confused one. It took me forever to figure out how to make spaces for a phone text, I would send my kids amessagethatlookedlikethis. They would die laughing. I still haven't purchased one, I am doing quite well with my go-phone which is cheap enough for what I need. I prefer the land line. You can hear people so much better that way, and truthfully even better if you keep one of those old fashioned dial or push button phones. I guess they are going to have to drag me kicking and screaming into the future of dad would be proud!

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Peacock Themed Wedding You Can Afford!

     About 2 years ago, my daughter mentioned something about a place called where people put pictures of interesting things they wanted to refer back to. I took a look at her page and saw a few things that peaked my interest.

     With my daughter's wedding being planned, and having the theme of peacock feathers, I thought, well, I wonder what I can find on Pinterest. Holy Mackerel! There are thousands of pins regarding weddings - any kind and any place that you can look into. I found dozens and dozens of pins of peacock wedding cakes, peacock table decorations, peacock flower girl dresses, peacock bouquets, peacock you name it - what a treasure trove! As a fairly crafty person, I just knew I could duplicate many of the ideas and do it cost effectively. I started looking into some of the pins and while I didn't always duplicate them, they were a great jumping off point.

     The dress was found at  one of David's Bridal sales - someplace she never planned on going to, but was talked into at least looking and trying things on to find a silhouette she liked. This dress was a real surprise and had everything she was looking for.  She also took care of making the bouquets with her maid of honor, getting most of the supplies at Hobby Lobby.  She decided to have her bouquet all in avocado green and the girls in the rest of the peacock colors. Having been in a ton of wedding parties herself, she looked long and hard for a bridesmaid dress that could be 1. used again and 2. not expensive - she found these wonderful wrap dresses online at Target for $30 - how could you go wrong? I made the girls crystal bracelets to match the dresses and some hair pins.
 My daughter made her headpiece as she wanted something that had a vintage look and bought the base piece and hot glued the feathers and veil to it. I think it was just perfect. 
  The next decision was what to put all the younger attendants in. She decided to have the three flower girls in multicolored tutus and i had lots of fun making them. It was surprisingly easy. Next were the peacock colored headbands which I made with stretchy crocheted headbands that matched the crocheted tops on the tutus. It was easy to sew the feathers on. The boys were easy to work with. Their mom bought cream colored shirts, black pants and peaked caps. I made them aqua vests and bow ties that matched all the colors in the tutus.

Two of the flower baskets I found on sale. The third one for the oldest girl was actually the woodland basket that was used for her mom's wedding. To unify things, I added ribbons of all the colors

For the church, I made pew bows from an Ivory tulle and ribbon and a peacock feather. The front row had a gold insert with a peacock colored ornament hanging form it, the others had simple crystals hanging. We put the head table centerpieces on either side of the altar and it looked beautiful

For the reception, we had blue napkins enclosed with a peacock and their names
The table decor was fairly simple - I found some lovely glitter tulle in blue and aqua and some 6 foot strands of winter berries in the same colors at JoAnns.We added some lights and the head table looked lovely.

For the actual table decorations, I went on and asked for vases - i scored 30 or more of them
that all looked the same! I went and cut some teasel and spray painted it aqua adding a little Martha Stewart magic with her cut up mylar sprinkles. I picked the spent lily shoots and spray painted them dark blue and added dark blue glitter sparingly. I picked some cattails and ordered peacock feathers inexpensively from  China. I put aqua water gems in the vase with a small waterproof light which looked really beautiful as the venue got darker in the evening.
For table numbers I made a simple holder out of a block covered in blue satin ribbon, some light green crystals and clear pebbles. Each table had a different photo of the happy couple's engagement photos
My daughter didn't want a full wedding cake and went with apple crisp with ice cream as the wedding was in the fall. I got to thinking and made a fake 2 tier cake from satin material and gems and then made a real top layer lemon cake with lemon filling - perfect for a Lemons wedding! The groom's sister made the chocolate groom's cake which had a Jayhawk on it - fitting for someone who went to the University of Kansas.
    I can't tell you how much fun putting all this together was. Having 9 months to plan, I was able to make use of all the 40% off coupons for JoAnn, Michaels, AC Moore and Hobby Lobby. Nothing was purchased at full price, yet everything looked beautiful. There is no need to go into debt to plan a beautiful wedding. There are still venues even here in New York that you can get for less than $25 a plate. If you do your own decorating, there is plenty left over for hiring a good DJ and photographer, something you don't want to skimp on. We had a young woman from our church video the day for $50 and 2 other girls babysat the young children so the parents could enjoy the day but were nearby if needed. We even brought a pack and play so they could be put down for naps - a really smart move according to the venue's owner.

If you have a wedding coming up and limited funds, I really recommend checking out for wedding ideas, photo ideas, decorations etc. Anyone can make many of these things and have the wedding of their dreams!

Saturday, April 12, 2014


     I love spring! I can't wait to rake out the lawn and garden beds and get my hands into the soil! The past few years I have had various times of not being in the garden as much as I'd like. One year it was a month long trip that kept me out of things in April, another year I completely ignored it as I prepared for my daughter's early fall wedding, the next year it was a month long trip in just seems there is always something that thwarts me. This year will probably be no different as I am hoping to get my knees replaced and while I haven't seen the orthopedist yet, I am hoping it will be done soon. So, I am currently spending as much time in the garden as I can. I treated my self and bought a cart to sit on that hopefully I can use if the knees are done - its really kind of cool .
     Last year I made a major mistake - I had bought a spray bottle of an antif-fungal for my roses which inevitably get black spot. I had been so good about spraying every seven days and  things were looking good. One day I went out and not only sprayed them, but also the soil around them figuring I would kill the spores that way. A few days later I looked out our porch window and it looked like some of my roses were dying. I went outside to the first garden and sure enough, all the leaves were crumbling and dry and the stalks were black. I went to the next garden and saw the same thing. I thought some weird sort of blight hit them until in horror I went to my garden closet and pulled out the spray bottle.

I had grabbed the wrong one! Instead of spraying them with the anti-fungal, I had sprayed them with Round Up!! It looked like I had killed 10 beautiful rose bushes! I quickly rinsed them down and decided to take a wait and see attitude.  Towards the end of the summer, I saw some of them were actually sending up some shoots and leaves and I was so encouraged...until this bizarre winter of massive snow storms and below zero weather. I went out  yesterday to look at them and it doesn't look like there was much of a survival rate. So, now I have to decide if I am going to spend the money for new ones. I am guessing I won't buy 10, more like 2 if at all.

     My mom and dad loved to garden and things bloomed beautifully for them - even now, while living in a retirement village with a small garden, my dad is out there checking what he has and thinking of new things he can try. My brother is also a great landscaper. I do alright, but I know I can do better. Up until late last summer I had a predominantly shady yard. Sunshine was a rare commodity, so I couldn't grow vegetables or some of the beautiful flowers you see that need full sun. Then my neighbor cut down two of his trees that shaded my yard. I have sun! I really want to put a raised bed garden and transplant some of the plants that needed more sun like my blueberries. But I guess I am going to have to be quick about it. So, the past two days I have been raking and pulling weeds like a madwoman! I still need to prepare some of the beds for transplants. I live in the northeast and we grow rocks here! You cannot dig down more than two inches without hitting stone. For a 3x5 foot garden, this is what I pulled out of the ground and I only went about 10-12 inches deep - you can see my problem! Its going to take a lot of digging along that eastern fence line to be able to get those blueberries in.

     When I first got married, I knew nothing about gardening, but I was game! I never do anything halfway, so that first summer I dug out the area around the front of our house and carefully planned for fall plantings of tulips, hyacinth, daffodils and other spring bulbs. I had circles and squares and all sorts of pleasing plans. Next up was the side garden which was a quarter of an acre. Like I said, I tend to go whole hog on things and so I turned that whole garden over and planted everything from A-Z. We were living in Illinois at the time and oh my the soil was wonderful - rich and dark and no stones! It was very successful and I spent the summer canning and feeling very pleased with myself. The big thing I learned was how well zucchini grows! We had it coming out of our ears! I am pretty sure we ate zucchini in all kinds of dishes well into winter. It was years before I planted it again - even now it brings a quick look of horror to my husband's face when I say I am thinking of planting it! For whatever reason, it will not grow in my garden. It flowers, I see bees pollinating it, but I never get an actual zucchini. I am going to try again this summer to see if it just wasn't getting enough sun before.

      My dad innocently gave me a small trumpet vine telling me it had beautiful vermillion flowers. He did not tell me how invasive it is or wildly it grows!

I spent most of last summer trying to cut it down.
I am hoping the hacking I did at it last year, will mean I have a better chance of killing the darn thing this summer. By the way, the other problem is that everything on the plant is poisonous! I found this out when I mistakenly crunched on one of its pods thinking it was a string bean from a nearby vine - I knew the minute I bit into it that something was wrong and then noticed there were others on the plant. I went inside to look it up on the internet and ended up having to call poison control. Luckily I hadn't eaten enough to cause a problem, but with grandchildren around, I don't want this in my yard!
So, I work and wait and hope this will be the summer that everything blooms like it should, there is not blight on whatever roses I put in, my zucchinis set fruit and my blueberries thrive. How does your garden grow?

Friday, April 11, 2014

How do you order your day?

 I have been a little lax the past few weeks - why does that happen?? My intentions are always good, but I seriously lack the skills needed to order my day!

     When I was growing up, our house was incredibly neat and tidy. My mom was amazing. She had five kids ranging in age from newborn to 15 and she not only took good care of us, but was a great cook and amazing housekeeper. She also found the time for an afternoon rest time and sewed a lot of our clothing.
My grandmother also kept a pretty neat house, so I am guessing she learned her good habits from my grandmother. Somehow, she never taught me those lessons. It wasn't like I didn't help out. I washed dishes, peeled potatoes, vacuumed the stairway and upper hall, cleaned the bathroom etc, but there are two things she neglected to teach me-  how to cook and how to manage a household! I am not sure why that was. I think she must have taught my sisters who were 7 and 15 years younger than me, and my brother is also a neatnik, so somewhere along the line, she realized that was something she needed to do.

     When I got married, I had already been living on my own for a few years and did a little bit of cooking, but most of the time I grabbed breakfast and lunch at the hospital I worked at and dinner was something you heated up in the oven. I got so good at it that one time when I had a date, I did a spinach souffle, turkey and baked potatoes that were all frozen precooked and heated in the oven and the guy thought I was a great cook! Then I got married and realized I hadn't a clue of how to make a roast, fry chicken, make sauce for Italian meals etc. I got a Betty Crocker cookbook for Two and learned a lot. I am a firm believer that if you can read, you can cook - my husband says that's a joke, because the only thing he can make is a precooked ham, but I stand by my belief. Over the years I have made gourmet meals, lots of wonderful baked goods etc. and it was all because of the cookbooks I bought. I learned how to tend a garden and can/freeze from our friend Spencer's mom and I did learn to make jam from my mother. She also gave me several of her recipes - her tomato sauce is so good we used to sneak little bowls of it while it was cooking! She wasn't Italian, but made her own sauce from scratch and I have never tasted better! I think my biggest fail was tuna casserole with potato chips. We used to watch Welcome Back Kotter and my husband always said I must have gotten my recipe from Julie! So, cooking I had down pat, housekeeping not so much...

     I have to admit something - I HATE HOUSEKEEPING!!! I do everything I can to avoid it. I am not sure if that is because my mom ran such a tight ship that nothing could be out of place, or if I am just plain lazy. I remember not being able to have a friend in my room unless I turned the cover down on my bed so it wouldn't get dirty, or having to go out and watch where our dog did her business and then having to water it and put  grass seed there so our lawn wouldn't look patchy. If my room was out of order, I would come home and everything in my closet and drawers would be dumped in the middle of my bed, and I would have to make it perfect. I had to vacuum out the car if I borrowed it and my dad literally used to vacuum the lawn and ajax the gutters. Our house looked beautiful, but I think for me it bred rebellion!

     Initially I didn't do too badly - but of course, we didn't have a lot in those days. I love to do crafts, so often there were projects that were being worked on and some magazines on the coffee table. When we moved to Canada, we had a two story barn that held LOTS of stuff, so the house was tidy as long as I didn't bring too many projects inside at once. When we moved back to the US and our family increased to three kids, I really started having trouble getting things done. Usually the basics were good - the beds were made and things were reasonably tidy, but then we started homeschooling. I had three different types of curriculum, projects for three grades, was also a 4H leader and taught a Christian based "scouting" type of program at our church. It involved making crafts with the kids as well. SO, I had projects for all these things on the long counter in our kitchen and some of it leaked over to the table. I remember my son drawing a picture of the kitchen and the end of the table had this big scribble on it. I said ,"What's that?' and he answered, "The stuff on the end of the table." I was overwhelmed and had no idea how to sort things out. I never did figure it out. My children have all gotten married and gone, I don't work and yet, I still find it hard to take care of my house! Of course I spend too much time on the internet working on genealogy and getting sucked into Facebook and other sites, and of course, I am still making crafts.

     I am trying to change and get some order in my life. I have been unsubscribing to newsletters and web sites, attempting to stay away from JoAnn, AC Moore, Hobby Lobby and Michaels so I can finish the projects I have before my eyes are caught by a new and different craft that I just have to master. But I need to make some sort of plan as to how much time I can spend on each thing. I need to make sure I  find time to vacuum and dust (ugh), to read a magazine only once and then dispose of it by giving it to the library or someone who might enjoy it (well, not my genealogy magazines or my quilting magazines, those I need, but ones like Better Homes and Gardens, People, and Living), to plan my meals so I don't spend a fortune buying whatever at the grocery (my husband says I am like a crow -I am always pulled away by bright shiny things!) and leave time for the garden, time with hubby and time for those little surprises that always seem to come along - how the heck do you do that and keep to it? Really, can someone please clue me in on this secret???