Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Silver Anniversary

Twenty-five years ago today, Don and I said our marriage vows. We promised to "have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness or in health, to love and to cherish 'till death do us part."

On this day when we said our "I Do's", we didn't have a clue what the future would hold.  But we promised to be there for each other no matter what happened. We promised to take care of each other. We promised to love each other.

No marriage cruises along on easy street for 25 years. Storms come, feelings get hurt, expectations are crushed. Selfishness often takes over. Even when two people love each other with all their hearts, it is hard work.

I'm thankful we have worked hard to love, forgive and put each other first. I'm thankful we have shown respect for each other, given up things for each other and looked out for each other.

I loved the sentiment on the anniversary card from Hallmark that Don's mom sent us:

"Love has little to do with moonlight and balconies
and everything to do with patience, acceptance and hanging in there.
Love can't always move mountains or change the world overnight.
But it can open its arms at the end of a long, bad day
and welcome you home to true belonging."

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Coming to America

Ellis Island Immigration Station
"Sito" is what I called my grandmother. She was my mom's mom. Her real name was Jamelah Mansour. Sito was born in Lebanon in 1906. One of the stories she would tell me when I was growing up was how she got to America

At the end of World War I, Sito traveled from Beirut, Lebanon to New York's harbor. The ship entered Ellis Island Immigration Station sometime during 1918. She was accompanied by her mother and two younger sisters. Her father had already been in the United States for a few years before he sent for them. Sito was around 12 years old.

After leaving Beirut, the ship sailed for about 15 days before stopping in Marseilles, France. They were only supposed to spend the night and board a new ship. When they arrived, they found out there was a strike in the shipping industry. They ended up being stranded in France for a month. I'm not sure how many days of sailing were required to get to the United Sates, but they eventually arrived in New York.

Because of the delay in France, they did not have enough money to get to Akron, Ohio where my great grandfather was living. They sent a telegram to him, but when he received it, he was shocked. He wasn't expecting them. After he had sent money for them to travel to the U.S., he lost all the money he had saved. He sent word again, this time telling them NOT to come. Because they were delayed in France so long, he assumed they got the message.

Strangers in New York, they didn't know what to do. Somehow they found enough money to take a train to Akron. It took three days. When they arrived, Sito's father wasn't ready for them. They had to stay in a friend's attic for several weeks until they found other arrangements. Sito said she did not even recognize her father. It had been over eight years since she had seen him.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

15 Miles on the Erie Canal

"I've got a mule, her name is Sal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal
She's a good old worker and a good old pal,
15 miles on the Erie Canal..."

Does anyone else remember singing that song in grade school? I was thinking about it this morning when Don and I rode 15 miles along the Ohio & Erie canal. We drove to the Towpath located in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Starting at Boston Store (mile marker 21.5), we rode our bikes all the way to mile marker 29. Then we turned around and rode back. You can see the path we took on this map: Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath.

Later, I found out you can bike one way and return by train for $2 using the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad "Bike Aboard!" service. At any train station along the path, you can catch the train, and railroad staff will load your bike. Of course, we would have had to bike to mile marker 36.5 in order to get our 15 miles in.
I was thoroughly exhausted after the trip, but it felt good to know I could bike 15 miles. I don't think I want to go much farther than that for awhile. Now Don says we need to train on some hills. Uggh!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Easy French Toast

This French toast is so easy and so yummy. All the other French toast recipes I have tried required frying the toast in a pan. For some reason, the bread always ended up soggy. This recipe makes nice, crisp French toast in the oven.

No-Fry French Toast

Nonstick cooking spray
1 egg, lightly beaten
3/4 c. fat-free milk
1 t. vanilla
1/8 t. ground cinnamon
8 Slices Texas toast
Powdered sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat baking sheet with cooking spray; set aside. In a shallow dish, whisk together egg, milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Cut each slice of Texas toast into 3 pieces. Soak the bread pieces in egg mixture about 1 minute per side. Place pieces on the prepared baking sheet.

Bake about 6 minutes or until pieces are light brown. Turn pieces over; bake for 5 to 8 minutes more or until golden brown.

If desired, sprinkle French toast with powdered sugar.  Makes 4 servings.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

A Few of My Favorite Things

"Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens
Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens
Brown paper packages tied up with strings
These are a few of my favorite things..."

Those may be a few of Maria's favorite things in the musical, The Sound of Music, but here are a few of my favorite things:

My library cards! I can borrow books from Geauga, Cuyahoga and Portage county libraries with my three library cards. If you don't have a library card, why not? Libraries are wonderful places.

My Oster electric tea kettle. This kettle boils water in 60 seconds flat. I use it to make tea every morning and every evening and sometimes in between.

My August-to-August calendar. I started using these eight years ago. I don't like electronic calendars, and this calendar is just the right size, with just the right amount of space to write on each day. Every July, I go to The Learned Owl bookstore in Hudson to purchase a new one. You can also get them online.

Kirk's Original Coco Castile Liquid Soap. I've only been able to find it at Heinens. The smell of this soap is so refreshing! It makes you feel very clean. And it is made from all natural products. The company has been around since 1839, so they must be doing something right.

I actually have a love-hate relationship with my foam roller. I love it because it gives me such a great massage, but I hate it because it kind-of hurts when I don't do it every day. I massage my back, calves, inside and outside thighs (those hurt the most!) and glutes by using my body weight to press each area on the roller, then roll back and forth. The roller is made of very firm foam.

My camera card reader. I didn't know how much I loved this device until Peter borrowed it Monday, took it to school for a project, and didn't bring it back until today. I use it every day to transfer pictures to my computer. I lost the driver CD for my camera a long time ago, so the only way I can get pictures to my computer is with this device. It transfers both SD and Compact Flash cards.

Some people (including Katherine) are addicted to Burt's Bees chapstick. I have tried it, and it is just too tingly for my lips. I prefer True Blue Spa chapstick from Bath & Body Works. It keep my lips moist, and it has a nice fresh smell. I will cry when they stop making it. They only sell it in the summer months, so I have to stock up. I also like the suncscreen in this line. Love the smell!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Dream Car

Daniel started his summer job this week and didn't waste any time going out to purchase his dream car -- the Audi R8. Standing next to his dream car is his dream girl (Lily).

Just kidding! It's all in his literal dreams.

You might have guessed that Daniel has some experience using Photoshop. He practices the online tutorials all the time. He tells me I should do the same.

I think he did a pretty good job of making this scene look real, don't you? He looks like he's ready to ride off into the wide blue yonder. But it would be nice if he got out, went around to the other side of the car, and let Lily in first.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Perfect Pillowcases

One of the easiest things to make with a sewing machine is a pillowcase. If you are new to sewing, this is the perfect first project. A pillowcase can be created in less than 30 minutes. Here's how:


3/4 yard fun fabric in cotton or flannel for the main part of the pillowcase
1/3 yard solid, stripe or coordinating fabric for the border
Thread to match


1. Cut fabric for main part of pillowcase to measure 26 1/2" x 40 1/2"
2. Cut border fabric to measure 10 1/2" x 40 1/2"
3. Fold the border fabric in half lengthwise, wrong sides together and press.
4. Line up the edge of the border fabric with the right side of main fabric, right sides together. Pin, then sew seam across.
5. Fold pillowcase in half so that it measures 20 1/4" across. Pin together.
6. Sew along bottom and up side of pillowcase.
7. Finish seams with a zig-zag stitch so they don't fray.
8. Press with iron.

I made three pillowcases to donate to children with cancer at Rainbow Babies & Children's Hospital through the organization ConKerr Cancer.

Monkey Pillowcase

Dinosaur Pillowcase

Bird Pillowcase

These pillowcases would make great gifts for kids, teens and adults too! How about a child going off to college? Sew one in his new school colors or one to coordinate with her dorm decor. It would even be fun to make one for a friend who needs some cheering up. There are sooo many adorable print fabrics in the fabric store. I could walk around and look at them all day. Happy sewing!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Slow-Cooker Salisbury Steak

I tried a new slow-cooker recipe today since I was out most of the day. I found it this week on a blog called It's a Keeper. The author of this blog tests recipes and lets you know if they are worth keeping in your recipe file. Apparently, this is one of her husband's favorite dishes.

It was easy to make, that's for sure, and I thought it tasted OK. I'm not a big beef eater, but Daniel thought it was delicious.

Slow-Cooker Salisbury Steak

2 pounds ground beef
1 (1 ounce) envelope dry onion soup mix
1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 T. vegetable oil
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 (1 ounce) packet dry au jus mix
3/4 c. water

Mix together ground beef, onion soup mix, breadcrumbs and milk.
Shape into eight patties.
Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.
Dredge the patties in flour to coat and quickly brown on both sides.
Place browned patties in slow cooker, stacking like a pyramid.
In a separate bowl, mix together cream of chicken soup, au jus mix and water.
Pour over patties.
Cook on low setting for 4-5 hours or until meat is well done.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Riley's Blankie

Babies aren't the only ones who have blankies. Riley has one too. He likes to carry the fuzzy pad from his crate around the house. He will curl up and go to sleep with it.

When not in use, the pad stays in his crate, but the door is always open. Riley isn't quite smart enough to stand outside the crate and pull the pad with his teeth. He will go inside the crate, stand on the pad, and try to get it out.

This will cause him to cry and whine for help. We usually come to his aid, but sometimes we make him figure it out by himself. And rather than sucking his thumb, he chews on his leg, always in the same spot, just above his left paw.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Extreme Couponing

One day last week, Daniel coerced me into watching a show with him. He said, "Hey mom, come here, you've got to see this show." So I joined him on the couch to watch a show called "Extreme Couponing" --another one of the many reality TV shows that have been popping up in recent years. It wasn't quite as bad as the "Extreme Hoarders" show I saw once, but it was a close second.

Three women were featured in the half hour. Each had similar organizing methods to hold coupons. They were obsessed with clipping coupons to the point of stealing their neighbors' newspapers from the end of the driveway.

It was a full time job for these women to get their coupons organized for a shopping trip. They planned out what they were going to purchase, matching everything up to the coupons they had collected. Their goal was to get out of the store without owing any money. In fact, they wanted to have enough coupons so that they could buy $500 in groceries and end up getting money back from the store!

All three women succeeded. They walked out of the store with enough groceries to feed three armies. Although they had saved money, the family now had more food than they could possibly eat. Extra rooms in the house had to be devoted to storage. In addition, none of the food they purchased was remotely fresh (as in fruits and vegetables). I admire their desire to be frugal, however the time spent clipping, planning, and keeping inventory outweighed the benefits in my book.

The day after we watched the show, Don purchased five gallons of milk he was responsible for bringing to a breakfast the next day. He stored the milk in the refrigerator. While we were out running errands, Daniel opened the refrigerator door and saw all the milk. He immediately sent me a text message that said: "Mom, did you have a coupon for milk?" I laughed until I rolled on the floor. My response was: "Yes, and Giant Eagle had to pay me 50 cents back!"

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Meal Train

When a friend is in need of meals because of illness, having a baby, or other circumstances, everyone wants to help. Providing meals is a great way to ease stress when a friend is overwhelmed.

In the past, when I've been involved in helping out, there was a lot of guesswork involved. When does the family need meals? What time would they like them delivered? Are there any allergies in the family? What did they have to eat the night before?

To save the day, a website called Meal Train, was developed. It is a brilliant idea. A close friend of the family sets up a web page with the information that answers all the above questions. She then sends out an email message to those who might be willing to help. After registering as a user, you can view the entire meal schedule, choose an open day, and sign up to bring a meal. You can see what everyone is cooking, so the family has a variety of meals to eat. It is so nice to see that your friend is well taken care of.

The next time you know someone who could use a little support, check out this great website.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Digital Delight

As far as I'm concerned, one of the best inventions to take place in the past 15 years is the digital camera. Usually, I take for granted that I can shoot 100 photos of the same event. Once in awhile, it occurs to me this was not always so.

For Christmas, the year I was 10, I received my first camera. It was a Kodak 126 model. It used a film cartridge that had to be loaded into the camera. If I wanted to take indoor shots, I had to snap on a flash cube. I had to pay for every picture I took, mistakes and all. Each roll of film came with 12 or 24 shots, and I made sure I didn't waste any.

This is a creative pose I thought up when I was about 12 years old. Carolyn got on my shoulders, put on my bathrobe, and we made it look like she was much taller than she actually was. Our brother, Mike, took the picture.

My last film camera was a 35 mm made by Olympus. When I was in my 20's I took photography classes and learned how to develop black & white photos. Don was nice enough to build a darkroom for me in our first house. I gave up that hobby when I was pregnant with Katherine because I was afraid the chemical fumes were harming my developing baby.

Since the mid-1990's digital cameras have revolutionized photography. I can take as many pictures as I want, because I can delete, delete, delete! I will try not to forget how thankful I am about this.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Katherine's College Graduation

This is Katherine all dressed up and ready to go to graduation. We met her at her apartment at 8:30 a.m. to get our graduation tickets. Then we walked over to the gym to find seats.

This is mostly a sea of strangers' heads, but if you look closely, you can see Katherine walking down the isle. It was very difficult to get a good shot inside the gym. The honored guest who addressed the graduating class was  Richard M. Daley, Mayor of Chicago. This was the last public address he was to make before stepping down from his office. He will retire today after serving 22 years as mayor of Chicago. Katherine got to shake his hand as she walked across the stage.

Katherine's a pretty happy camper here holding her fake diploma. They didn't actually give her the diploma yet. It will be mailed to her after exam grades are in. Katherine graduated magna cum laude, with a B. A. in Psychology and minor degrees in Music and Biblical Studies.

Katherine's come a long way since her first day at North Park University. This picture was taken just after she met her freshman roommate, Nadia. She might not look like it, but she is holding back a floodgate of tears that will spill when we leave.

We are very proud of our sweet daughter!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Peter's Prom

On Friday night, Peter and Anna got all dressed up and went to prom. Anna looked gorgeous in her dress! She and Peter picked out a tie to match. They had a great time at dinner and after prom too.

Peter liked this picture. Personally, I think he looks much better when he smiles.

Full length shot of Anna's dress.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Bike Trip

5K training is on hold, at least until the end of June. My muscles need to focus on biking the next 39 days. That's when Don and I join Dave and Pam on a bike trip in Europe. Training was delayed because of the rainy spring, so we need to get moving. Pam says our goal should be to bike one hour without stopping. The information booklet says to be able to ride 15-20 miles without effort. That would be easy if the trail were downhill or flat, but that's not how roads are made. Hills are involved, and that means burning thighs.

This should be a trip of a lifetime. We arrive in Prague two days before the biking begins. That will give us enough time to adjust to jet lag and see Prague Castle, the Jewish Quarter and Old Town Square before we start our biking tour.

From Prague, we will head toward Passau, Germany, then into Austria, ending up in Vienna. We don't bike this entire way, of course. Sometimes we travel by van, train or boat. Each day, we will meet local people, eat local food and explore the landscape and architecture.

I am hoping to be able to record the journey on my blog each day. If not, I will keep a journal and blog when I return home.

Well, time to go push those pedals!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Baby

Sometimes I just want to hold a baby in my arms. I don't have any babies or grand babies right now, so I must make do with Riley. He's bigger than a baby (28 lbs.) - the size of a large toddler.

Riley runs from me when I give him the look that says, "come here...I want to pick you up". When I tell him to come, he backs up. If I grab for him, he eludes me. My trick is to tell him to "stay". The word "stay" makes him think he is in trouble, and he will slink toward me.

Just look at those eyes. They say, "what's she up to now?" Or, "how can I get out of this Full Nelson?" But he stays there for just a few minutes before letting me know he's had enough baby treatment. Even though the hold is most unpleasant, he knows it makes me happy, so he tolerates it.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day

A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie. ~Tenneva Jordan

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Stronger Man

I'm not interested in what's on TV. I rarely turn it on, and when I do, I tune in to the Food Network. Once in awhile, to be social, I will sit in the family room while other family members view various programs.

Today, I joined Peter in some TV time. After he flipped a half dozen channels or more, he settled on ESPN's replay of the 2009 Strongest Man in the World competition.

Who would have dreamed there would be such a thing? They were doing crazy things like strapping a 950 lb. car to their shoulders and walking with it for almost one minute, tossing 50 lb. kegs backward over a high steel wall, and lifting progressively heavier (250 lb.-350 lb.) stones onto high pedestals.

It pained me to watch their faces turn red while their veins almost popped out of their heads. All these men looked alike: large heads, huge necks, gigantic chests and hairless armpits. Why the hairless armpits? I don't know.

When Daniel was young, he had a toy that looked like one of these guys. He called it "Stronger Man". Stronger Man could not lift a finger, but he sure could s-t-r-e-t-c-h! He was made of rubber, and he bounced. This toy would be something they might have sold at the concession stand during one of these competitions.

I don't know what happened to Stronger Man, but after witnessing the World's Strongest Man competition for 30 minutes, I better understand why the remote control stays out of my hands.

Friday, May 6, 2011

You Make Me Laugh

While walking by the door to Daniel's room this morning, like I do many times a day, I stopped to take a closer look. 

During high school, Daniel decorated the outside of his door with movie posters and other memorabilia. There is so much tape on the door that it will probably need to be refinished one day when the paper comes down.

Among the soccer towel, Apple computer stickers, redneck jokes and posters is a tiny clipping from a magazine that contains this quote:

"Among those whom I like or admire, I can find no common demoninator, but among those whom I love, I can: all of them make me laugh." - W. H. Auden

What a thought for the day! I love laughter and those who make me laugh. And Daniel happens to be at the top of the list.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Overnight Oven Oatmeal

Do you like oatmeal? I don't mean oatmeal that comes in packets, mixed with brown sugar that cooks with a 1/2 cup of boiling water. I mean real, nutty, chewy oatmeal. The kind that comes in a cardboard can. The kind that is Old Fashioned. Well, I like real oatmeal. The problem is, I don't like to stand over the stove and cook it in the morning. If someone were to cook it for me, I'd eat it every day.

While looking through one of my cookbooks last night, I found a recipe for Old Fashioned oatmeal. Amazingly enough, it is something I can prepare the night before and have ready in the morning.

Overnight Oven Oatmeal

2 cups old-fashioned oats
4 cups light vanilla soy milk or 2 cups 2% milk mixed with 2 cups water
pinch salt

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 170 degrees.
Mix oats, soy milk or milk and water, and salt in an oven-proof saucepan (I used my small cast iron pot).
Cover and set in oven until milk is absorbed and oatmeal is cooked, 4 hours minimum and up to 12 hours.
Stir and serve.

I cut the recipe in half and used plain light soy milk, since that is what I already had. Drizzle a little pure maple syrup or honey on top for a little sweetness. It was very good!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where There's Food, There's Riley

Riley loves food. I'd even go so far as to say he lives for it. He's keenly aware of every rustling paper and snapping banana. His dog food doesn't last more than 30 seconds in the dish. When I give him a treat, he inhales it. Rawhide strips are devoured in minutes. Nothing remotely edible gets past him.

Fortunately, when we are eating, he minds his manners. During dinner, he does not beg. He lies quietly by my chair, waiting for me to slide back and get up. That's when he rushes to the sink where he knows plates get scraped and dishes get placed in the dishwasher. He's always dismayed when the leftovers tumble into the point of no return: a.k.a. the garbage can.

When we sit on the couch with a snack, Riley jumps up and stares. He doesn't whine, he just stares. After awhile, a bit of drool forms on his lips. If we don't finish the treat quickly, the drool drips onto the couch. If a morsel accidentally falls, don't bother trying to retrieve it. It will be in his digestive tract before you can bend from the waist.

It's a good thing Riley never sits still. If he was a couch potato, he'd have a few more pounds packed onto his waistline.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Gene Pool

Some families have children who look almost identical to each other. You can spot the characteristics immediately and say, "she must be a Cook," or "he has to be a Finelli."

We don't have that problem. Just the opposite. I can't tell you how many times I've had people comment on how different my children look from one another.

Even teachers in school have been shocked to find out Daniel was Katherine's younger brother.

The only way to explain it is the gene pool. When you mix two Italian's, you get Italian-looking children. When you mix two Dutchmen, all the kids turn out with blond hair and blue eyes.

But when you mix someone of Scottish descent with someone whose family tree goes back to Lebanon, you get a mish mash of genes. Some children will have blue eyes, some will have curly hair, some will be tall, some will be short. Some will have fair skin, some will be dark complected. That's what we have, and we love them all the same.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine

April, 2011 can be reduced to one word: gloomy. I felt like a cloud was hanging over my head the entire month. Probably because it was.

I took this photo of Cleveland while in the airplane on Friday just after take-off from Hopkins airport, around 9:00 a.m.

By this time, the National Weather Service had announced that April was the rainiest ever in Cleveland's history, with 6.72 inches of rain recorded. This broke the 1961 record of 6.61 inches.

Let's just hope that all the April showers will bring many May flowers ... posthaste!