Friday, March 26, 2010

Ways in Which I am Like my Grandparents….

Pap Siedel
He was my great-grandfather and lived to be about 90 I think. I definitely get my gift of gab from him.

Grandma Denison
Although I didn’t really get to know her very well, I did have a couple things in common with her. For one thing, we both worked in retail as I seem to recall her once having a job at Gray Drug (a drugstore that’s now long gone). We both had a sweet tooth because I’ll never forget that chocolate cake with peanut butter frosting she once made for my dad. (insert yummy noises here).

Grandma Rackow
I probably had the most in common with her. I think our personalities were the most similar. I’ve seen photos of her with this kind of half scowl on her face and I can’t get over how similar I must look when I make the same face.

Although she never drove a car (to the best of my knowledge), she still worried whenever my grandpa drove on treacherous winter roads. I definitely don’t enjoy driving in winter weather, and make no secret about it. Grandma also enjoyed her food, and I do too, but take it in moderation these days. She liked to spoil us grandchildren and I like to spoil my nieces and nephews. She enjoyed spending the day outside relaxing at a metro park or anywhere else with beautiful scenery, as I do too.

Grandpa Rackow
We both enjoyed photography and I’m sure he would have happily embraced digital technology if he was alive today. In fact, at one time we both even owned the same model camera – the Canon FTB (produced around the time I was born in the early 70’s). He kicked himself for not giving me his camera when I needed one for a college photography course, but sometimes the timing of these things doesn’t quite work out. I still have that camera today and don’t plan on ever parting with it.

Late in life, Grandpa and I enjoyed many of the programs on BBC like “The Vicar of Dibley” and “As Time Goes By.” It’s because of him that I went to a book signing and got to meet Dame Judi Dench. I only hope he was watching from above : )

Grandpa Goff
I definitely gained my appreciation for all things Tiffany from him. I’m not sure how many stained glass lamps he churned out in his lifetime, but I am grateful to be the proud owner of one and will always treasure it. I also learned all about stained glass and rose windows, an interest I picked up from him.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Ten Best Days of My Life

The Ten Best Days of My Life by Adena Halpern

A heavenly novel about what truly matters in life. In this hilarious and heartwarming first novel, twenty-nine year old Alexandra Dorenfield suddenly finds herself in heaven after an unfortunate encounter with a Mini Cooper. The seventh—and highest—level of heaven to be exact. Her dog Peaches is with her; she is reunited with her beloved grandparents; she has the wardrobe of a movie star; and she lives in the house of her dreams next door to a handsome guy. This is heaven! But there’s a catch. Alex must prove she led a fulfilling existence by writing an essay on the ten best days of her life— or she will be demoted to a lower level of heaven, where the clothes are last year’s styles, the men aren’t quite as handsome, and worst of all, Peaches and her family won’t be nearby. Witty and inspiring, this divine debut novel dares to ask a material girl—and the rest of us—what makes life precious.

(summary from

This is a book I recently came across on my friend’s shelf on the website Although I haven’t read it, I have it on reserve at my local library. This book got me thinking about my own life and my own ten best days. After much contemplation, I could only come up with about five examples from about the last 15 years or so. I’m sure I had many happy days in my childhood, but I think it’s easier to be happy when you’re a child because you have less adult responsibilities to weigh you down.

1) my 24th Birthday 3/20/94

Even though I was away at college, I had a boyfriend (who later became my husband) and a good friend who lived upstairs in my dorm. We had a fun day out taking in a matinee of a ballet performance of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream.” I called my grandparents during a lull between waiting for bus transportation back. Went to dinner after getting back to my university, and finished the evening with a chocolate cake my friend had baked for me (and alcoholic beverages!). It was a day where I felt truly loved by those around me.

2) Spring Break afternoon shopping spree, 1999, Gloucester

Since I was on flexi-time, I was allowed to work half a day and then leave. I think my employer (MAFF) was also letting people leave early since the next day was a holiday (Good Friday). I remember walking home (on a gorgeous warm sunny day) and then catching the bus into town for an afternoon shopping spree. I have no idea how much I spent, but the weather was nice and I just loved the whole wonderful carefree feeling.

3) the day one of my best friends arrived for a visit in the UK, Dec. 1999, Gloucester

One of my close friends had just finished her time in the Peace Corps (in Mali, West Africa) and had arranged to fly back to the states via London. This allowed a brief window of opportunity for her to stop and see me and my husband for a few days. One of my happiest memories of her visit is watching her sit sideways in our old lumpy second-hand chair, her legs hanging over the side, while reading excerpts aloud from our Lonely Planet French language guide. We especially enjoyed the translation for “I am a heroine addict. Where is your nearest clinic?” (or something like that).

4) the day my parents arrived for a visit in the UK, June, 2000

Their visit was something I had (literally) dreamed about since moving to the UK almost a couple years earlier. It was everything I wanted it to be and then some. I remember making them a dinner of pasta bake for their first night, wishing to show off my newly-acquired cooking skills. My sister presented me with a belated birthday present of a little scrapbook featuring my dog Comet, whom I had left behind when moving to England. I thought the scrapbook was a touching gesture and made me cry. It’s still one of my most cherished possessions.

5) the day I went to Bristol all by myself to see the Titanic exhibit at the British Empire & Commonwealth Museum, summer 2002?

For starters, it was an unseasonably warm day in England, but most welcome. I probably wore shorts (making me a dead giveaway as an American) and a t-shirt. I rode the Park ‘n Ride bus to town, then took a train to Bristol Temple Meads. From there it was only a short walk to the adjacent museum. Among the many Titanic relics on display was the largest item I had ever seen – that being a deck chair (yes, really!) that had been aboard ship, but removed in Cherbourg I think and given to someone affiliated with the White Star Line as thanks for their service to the line, or something like that.

Because I was alone (and not with my husband), I opted to hit the gift shop first knowing that’s all I’d think about when viewing the exhibit. Among other things I bought a t-shirt that is one of the softest and most comfortable shirts I own, something I count among my prized possessions today. After leaving the museum I bought a sickly sweet waffle with chocolate oozing all over it. I couldn’t finish it, but what I did eat was quite good.

The day was special because the weather was nice, and I loved the feeling of independence of being able to travel on my own, choose my own souvenirs and eat whatever junk food I felt like, and getting to see stuff that was once on the Titanic.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Cereal Box Toys

As I was sorting a box of craft supplies the other day I found a baggie full of fake coins/tokens, some of which I am pretty sure were cereal box giveaways. This got me to thinking, “Do you even find such a thing anymore?” The last thing I seem to recall getting free (attached to the outside of a box of Honeynut Cheerios) was an excerpt from the book “The Spiderwick Chronicles.” Nowadays it seems you only get coupons you must save up in order to then purchase a second-rate item.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea that toys were discontinued. I remember endless arguments with my brother and sister over whose turn it was to keep the toy. Sometimes it went to whomever was quick and sly enough to appropriate it from the box. Other times my mom settled the argument (by either giving it to one of us or tossing it out).

Some of the cereal box items I’ve saved from my childhood include a set of miniature license plates (which I just saw on E-bay), assorted small plastic toys, tiny 3-D cards that move when you hold them a certain way, and decals and stickers. I also recall the small 45rpm records you’d have to cut off the box and then place coins on top to keep them from wobbling while you’d play them. Another favorite was the small rubbery wacky wall walker that you threw at the wall and watched as it slowly walked down until falling to the ground. The only problem with that toy is the dirtier it got, the less it would stick to the wall. Hours of fun while it lasted though!

I guess kids today have to stick with boxes of Cracker Jacks, or McDonalds/Burger King kids’ meals if they want a toy with their meal.