Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Rolling toward Christmas

What are your holiday traditions?

As a child, it was Midnight Mass, all of my grandparents and great-grandparents at our house, getting to open "just one" present on Christmas Eve, and the home made candy.  Especially my Gram's peanut brittle and divinty and fudge.  Those are the things that you get once a year and they bring back special memories.

As an adult, I bake every year.  Occasionally, I make some of my Gram's candies.  This year the divinity and fudge are done.  Every year, though, I make a recipe that was handed down to me from my mother-in law.  It's a Polish walnut roll that John's Nana used to make.

I never met the woman whose recipe I make every December.  She passed away when John was in high school.  I've heard wonderful stories about her, though.

I was lucky enough to know John's grandfather.  Everybody called him Saik, short for Saikowski, which was his last name.  He was a giant of a man.  Big in stature with a huge heart.  He taste tested my first few attempts at the nut rolls, and since they seemed to pass, I kept at it.

So, here I am, lot of years and hundreds of nut rolls later. I didn't grow up with them, or the family that introduced them to me, but I can't imagine what my life, or my Christmases, would be like without either of them.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

My grandmother's baby brother

is my great Uncle Lawrence.  And today he turns 92.

Most people would wonder about the things that he's seen in those 92 years.
I often wonder about the things he hasn't seen through most of them.

His sight was slowly taken from him before I was born because of a condition called Retinitis pigmentosa.

And although his eyesight has been mostly gone since he was in his 30's, I can't say that I've ever heard him complain.  In fact, he's probably one of the most inspirational people I know.

In spite of the challenges that came with his lack of vision, through the years he still ran his own business, mastered many home improvement skills, learned to dance and lived independently until the age of 91.

In 1940 he was a handsome 19-year-old.

And this was his birthday in 1942.

I will take him home made carrot cake for his birthday today.
I have no idea if my baking skills are as good as my grandmother's.
I do know that I have been blessed to be her brother's niece.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Bringing in the Wheat

I didn't grow up on a farm.

Up until a few years ago, I didn't know anything about our farm except where it was.  And even that was only in general terms. 

Today, I don't pretend to be an expert and I certainly wouldn't be so presumptuous as to call myself a farmer, but I've come to love the land that has been in my family for nearly a century. 

June is harvest time for winter wheat and this year the wheat looks good for us.  What was green just a few weeks ago has turned into a sea of golden grain.  We are blessed to have wonderful people who farm for us and take care of our land. Without them, this simply could not happen.

 The more I learn about the farm the more respect and appreciation I have for the people have dedicated their lives to working the land. It is hard, dirty work and the hours are ridiculously long. They must do it for love, because it certainly isn't about getting rich. 

I've had the chance to ride on the combines.  I've seen beautiful sunsets and we've run from a hail storm - all during the same harvest. 

I didn't grow up on a farm. But knowing the way I feel about it now, I really think I would have liked it.

Monday, May 27, 2013

A peony for your thoughts

I've been pondering the things we keep to remind us of our past.

They're memories mostly.

Images in our minds of a place or a person.

Maybe the scent of something baking in the kitchen.

Perhaps a song that takes you back to another day and time.

Every once in a while, though, it's something tangible.

Something that you can touch.
A real, physical connection to the people and the places that are gone.

Before the city tore down the house that my grandparents and great grandparents had lived in for over 40 years, I took a knob off of one of the kitchen cabinets.
I also have a brick from the front porch.
They're nice to have, but they just sit in a closet. 

But every spring, when I look out my window, I see peonies popping up in my garden.
And when they bloom, there will big beautiful flowers in shades of pink and purple.

They're the peonies my Gram and Great-Grandmother planted so many years ago.
The flowers from these plants were cut and taken to the cemeteries every Memorial Day. 
Their flowers were put in a vase on the kitchen table as the prelude to my Gram's roses every summer.


They're more than flowers.
They're a connection to my past.
They're living reminders of the memories I hold in my mind.

And if I ever leave this place where they grow now, they'll go with me.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Everything old is new again

The kitchen. 

The heart of the home.

Everything from pop-tarts to gourmet dinners come out of this room.  We become obsessed about its design.  I've spent hours upon hours thinking about the most cost effective way to bring this space up to date.

I want it to be current.  Modern.  Efficient.  Timeless.
And yet, I still want to leave it semi-original. True to the age and the style of the house.

So what do I do? 

Friday, April 19, 2013

It's a plaid, plaid, plaid world.

The biggest project in any house remodel is usually the kitchen.

Ours was no different.

Here's what we started with:

60+ year-old appliances.

One short wall of cabinets with minimal counter top space.

Disconnected plumbing.

Worn through linoleum.

Peeling plaster walls.

And wallpaper. 

Lots of wallpaper

On the walls


And on the ceiling.

I kind of liked it.

I wanted to keep it.

I got out-voted.

But it all worked out in the end.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A little Deja Vu

We had an ice storm in Wichita this week.

The trees sparkled in the sun.  It was a beautiful sight.

So I took this photo looking south on Perry Avenue.

Then it occurred to me that I had seen another picture that looked amazingly similar.

Only this one is 55 years older.

It was also taken in April. 
But this one was taken after a snow storm, not ice.
It's in about the same place on Perry - looking south. 
You can see the same houses.

Years may pass, but some things stay the same.
I do love that.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A sandwich and a song

Tucked in the corner of the kitchen is a charming arched doorway that leads into a cozy little breakfast nook.

And above the chair rail in this little room, hangs this wallpaper with snow white dogwood blossoms, emerald green leaves and the most amazing vivid red birds on it.

When I was young, we would visit my Grandmother and Uncle Leroy and we would sit in this room and have sandwiches.  And butter brickle ice cream from the deep freeze.

And while we would sit, my Uncle Leroy would whistle, like a songbird, and tell me that the birds on the walls were singing for me.

And, of course, I believed him.

That little room felt like a forest full of birds to a little girl.

And I loved it.

I still do.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The smallest room in the house - Part 2

Remember what it looked like before we started?

It was a beauty, no?  NO!

We could have slapped on some paint and put in a new potty and called it good, but that's just not how we roll.

We gotta get dirty, man.  And let me tell you, tearing out lathe and plaster is DIRTY work.


We tore out the wall behind the sink.

And the wall behind the toilet.

And the wall behind the tub.   (When we did that we found another access point to the attic, which was nice when we did the electrical and the insulation!)

And the floor - which freaked some people out - because you could see through the planks right to the basement!

After the plumbing was done, we put in a cool new window and called the drywall guys and they gave us a blank canvas so we could start over...

And that's when the fun really began.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The smallest room in the house...

One little bathroom.  That's what we have here.

To say that this bathroom is in desperate need of a makeover is an understatement.

It's yellow, which I don't love. 

The "tile" really isn't tile at all.  It's 4x4 plastic-ish squares that look like tile which are stuck to the plaster. Hmmm...

The lathe and plaster walls are blistered and peeling.

It has a tiny little sink that's mounted too low on the wall and a toilet with a cracked tank.

There is one small window.  In the tub.  Which is impractical for a myriad of reasons.

The bathtub itself is awesome, though.  It's a huge cast iron tub that's extra deep and extra long, which will be wonderful to sit and soak in - once we get it cleaned up.

Stay tuned.  You won't believe the transformation...

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rocky Road

is great if you're talking about ice cream.

Not so much if you're talking about a driveway.

A driveway should be smooth and, well, driveable.

Ours wasn't.

It was narrow.  And broken.  And full of weeds.  And the approach could do a serious number on the wheels of your car.

Aside from the fact that it didn't look pretty, it held water when it rained and that made the south wall of the basement weep.  Which made me weep. 

I wanted it fixed.

So, I found me an awesome concrete guy and he took this:
And did this:

 Then he did this:

 And it's been smooth sailing ever since...

Special thanks to Jason Thomas at McGuire Flatwork - Your guys did a great job!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

This little boy

was born on a farm in Kansas.

This little boy had two older brothers, a mom who raised him, and a dad who died when he was only three.

This little boy was a three sport athlete in high school and a four-year track letterman in college.

This little boy worked his way through college, graduate school and dental school.  He also spent a little time in the Army in the middle of all that.

This little boy grew up to be my dad.

This little boy would have been 84 today.

This little girl still misses him.