Pysankas and more

When I was little my mom started a collection of eggs for me. Unfortunately, I don’t exactly know why and I never asked, but I suppose it was just something for us to share. The first eggs were little Limoges porcelain eggs from France that a neighbor brought home after a trip to France. Then I got it in my head to collect an egg from countries around the world. I have quite a few but I haven’t added to the collection in many years and I struggle with where to put all the ones I have. I displayed some of them for awhile, but honestly, it just feels too fussy to have around, not to mentioned that it’s a pain in the neck to dust.

Still, this time of year I can’t resist taking the pieces out and enjoying their beauty and the memories associated with them. I share just a few with you here.

These are pysanka, traditional Ukrainian easter eggs. They are real egg shells with intricate designs dyed onto the shell using a batik wax technique. A student of my mom’s brought them back from a trip and I’m amazed that a high school student got them from Ukraine to the US in one piece.

This is a large porcelain egg from Hungary. The artist used a single hair brush to paint some of the detail in the design.

Another large porcelain egg with a bisque finish from Japan. The flowers are raised and delicate.

Blue and white glazed pottery egg from Portugal. I just love how the artist placed the flowers and left a lot of white space.

Classic Wedgewood pottery egg. This is the smaller of the two that I own. The larger one got broken by the kids when they were little because I foolishly left it out on the coffee table. Cliff meticulously pieced it back together but it still looks like a mess. I keep it though, I just don’t put it out.

Large Irish Belleek china egg. Besides that it is the iconic bone color and high glaze, I just love how the stylized flowers are kind of randomly sprinkled over the egg, giving it a kind of movement and lightness.

This is a plexiglass egg that my sister got me many years ago when I visited her in Berkeley, CA in 1972. The artist, who lived near her, poured liquid plexiglass in half of the mold, suspended a dried flower inside then poured move plexiglass to fill the mold. It’s difficult to do this without getting any bubbles inside. This material scratches very easily but I’m managed to keep it relatively scratch free.

Various stone eggs. Some agate and some marble. The two white eggs are just frosted glass and I was told that they were used to encourage hens to lay eggs where you wanted them to be laid.

The Limoges eggs from Limoges, France where the porcelain is made. The small egg with the yellow flower was the first egg in the collection, brought back from France by a friend of my mother’s. It very much reminds me of my mother as she was an avid rose gardener and her favorite color was yellow.

This is just a fraction of the collection, I’ll share more as the years go by. I’ll probably always struggle with the pull of displaying the collection vs. the uncluttered feeling of a clean room. But the pieces are filled with memories and a reminder of my mother.

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Filed under art, family, Love, spring, tradition, travel

Why Jenny McCarthy (and other Idiot Celebrities) Should be Charged with Murder (or at Least Child Endangerment)

you’re familiar with the expression, “everyone’s an expert”. turns out that a whole lot of people who have a platform because they are entertainers or naked in public think they are experts too. worse, people read b list celebrity nonsense and then declare themselves experts. here’s a nice tidbit on delusional thinking that kind of defines more and more people today

it’s one thing to think of yourself as an expert on climate change, the consequence of which is just a whole lot of dinner table arguments. it’s quite another to think of yourself as an expert on immunology and disease, the consequence of which can kill or seriously injure your unimmunized kids (not to mention those around you who are immunocompromised).

these two recent events are why celebrities like jenny mccarthy and their anti-vaccine diatribes are just plain dangerous.

there are still a lot of us alive today who remember the bad old days without a lot of vaccines. we knew kids who were paralyzed from polio, we knew families who had an iron lung in the house, there were kids in our classes who had leg braces to help them walk after a bout of polio.

i remember when the polio vaccine was widely distributed. we lived next door to a hospital and there was a huge iron gate that opened up to the physician parking lot next to the front of the hospital. on the day the polio vaccine was distributed those gates were opened and there were crowds of people lined up from the front door of the hospital through that parking lot and down the street next to our house. entire families waited for hours, excited and grateful to be receive a little paper cup with a sugar cube infused with the polio vaccine. (i actually met dr. jonas salk of polio vaccine fame and it was quite a moment.)

tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis (whooping cough) were the only vaccines administered when i was a kid, so i had the measles, mumps and chicken pox, thankfully i did not have polio. there is some family lore that one of my sisters had polio as a child, but i never really got confirmation of that. back in the day when someone in your household had one of these diseases, the city would come out to the house and tack a bright orange “quarantine” sign on the front door, or in our case the front picture window, to warn the neighbors. i still remember looking out the window past the sign and out at the neighborhood kids laughing and playing in the street and being stuck in the house for what seemed like eternity. what i very much remember was how utterly miserable it was to be sick with the measles — high fever, itchy skin, gunky eyes and just feeling very, very tired. i also vividly remember how awful it was to have the mumps, glands swollen worse than when i had mono in college. thankfully, i made it through all of those diseases without long term consequence, but i can tell you that i know kids who did not — kids who found out as adults that they had fertility problems, eye problems, heart problems or other issues related to childhood diseases for which kids now can be vaccinated.

i never had the german measles (rubella) which i only discovered when my obgyn tested me when i was pregnant with my first child. she was practically panicked to find out that i was not immune to rubella since it’s harmful to a growing fetus. she told me to stay away from children, people who have children and anyone i thought might not have been vaccinated for rubella. yeah, well that was kind of impossible. minutes after giving birth, a nurse marched into my room and gave me a rubella vaccine. the next day i went home from the hospital with a distinctive rubella rash on my hands and feet but healthy baby girl.

like so much else in life, generations grow older and the stories of “what life was like before …” fall on deaf ears. every generation wants to re-invent the wheel. what’s the expression? you’re entitled to your own opinion but not your own set of facts. as intelligent as people think they are, many fall back on such a failure of historic knowledge and context coupled with a primal “well, i’ve never seen it” nonsense. oddly though, many of them believe in some kind of deity and i guarantee you haven’t seen a god…

the reason very many of the diseases for which children are inoculated today are not seen in this nation is because of vaccines. the vaccines prevented the disease from proliferating. what part of this is so hard to understand?

i can figure what someone like jenny mccarthy gets out of linking vaccines to autism and that is that her fabulousness cannot be questioned if she blames what looks more and more like a genetic mutation on the evils of vaccines that were perpetrated upon what must be perfect offspring because it came from her. interestingly, mccarthy’s silicone breast implants do not cause her any alarm…

here’s the irony: “uneducated” parents in impoverished nations who have little access to consistent medical care clamber to get vaccines for their children while middle class, “educated” parents in a wealthy nation sit around and pontificate and send their children into the world at risk.

how smart are you if you take your marching orders from the likes of jenny mccarthy?


Filed under crimes, death, Fitness, Illness, medical, science

Another Round of Whiskey

apparently i was suffering from a whiskey withdrawal of some sort when i wrote my first whiskey post and completely forgot three of the main whiskies i’ve been enjoying for years. but since there can never be enough said about whiskey, here’s more about the amber nectar of the gods.

first, a correction. when i posted the recipe that c invented for the counterfeit cure cocktail, i forgot to list the vermouth. so, here’s the correct recipe:

the counterfeit cure cocktail

1.5 oz dad’s hat bourbon
.5 oz grand marnier
1.0oz of martini and rossi sweet red vermouth
some drops of blood orange bitters
stir over ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass and top with homemade maraschino cherries

one of our mainstay whiskies has always been knob creek, a big, bold bourbon. for me, this is not a mixing bourbon since it is so assertive, but it’s nice for sipping, preferably over rocks.

as with many of the distillers now, knob creek makes a variety of flavors of bourbon, but i’m not sure i’m ever interested in trying them. kind of like gilding the lily.

c was given a bottle of basil haydens one year and we’ve been fans ever since. this is a mellow, gently kind of bourbon with nice clean flavor. i particularly like a whiskey sour made with this bourbon.

last but not least (unless i’ve forgotten even more whiskies) is good old bushmills, an irish whiskey. this is one we’ve probably been enjoying the longest, so long ago in fact that i can’t remember not having it (which makes it more ridiculous that i forgot about it in my first post) this is our once-a-year shot on opening day of the eagles’ football season. eagles’ fans will relate that though we say it’s for good luck, a stiff shot is just a way to get through the season.

if you’re really looking for a treat, try a black and tan (half guinness, half harp) or a black and darker tan (guinness and smithwick’s) with a shot of bushmills. deliciously smooth and it will put a bit of sparkle in your eye.

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Whiskey Dreamin’

“You got any whiskey? How about you give me some whiskey?” — Loretta in the movie Moonstruck.

remember all those old westerns where people were downing shots of whiskey like it was water? how about moonshiners, prohibition, saloons and much earlier a whiskey rebellion? kind of gave whiskey a bad name. It’s not news that the u.s. has had a long love affair with whiskey.

“wee have found a waie to make soe good drink of indian corne i have divers times refused to drinke good stronge english beare and chose to drinke that.” george thorpe, virginia 1620.
rye and corn became the preferred grains of colonial whiskey makers, with rye the main ingredient. whiskey made principally with corn developed later in the eighteenth century in the backwoods of virginia known as kentucky.

but like all things old, whiskey in the u.s. is new again, in fact whiskey is undergoing a kind of renaissance. and man oh man, is some of it really, really good.

i have always loved a good wine, particularly a complex red and california has been delivering them for decades. more recently, as craft beer brewing has expanded, i’ve been sampling craft brews from around the country and trying to taste many local brews whenever we travel.

but i’ve never thought of myself as a whiskey drinker. c always fancied a good scotch and sometimes enjoyed a manhattan while i enjoyed a nice wine. but these days, we’ve been enjoyed a plethora of fine whiskies, primarily from around the u.s.

whiskies come in a few types and you can read the details here but generally what c and i have been enjoying is bourbon or rye.

now for me, tasting some good whiskies is a slow endeavor since i have a pretty low tolerance for liquor. i have to say that alcohol gets in the way of my enjoying a long taste of a good whiskey – i have to savor in small doses.

i’ve never been one for jack daniel’s but we’ve always had a bottle in the house. it’s good for our annual shot before the season’s first football game.

our go-to favorite has always been maker’s mark, but now there’s a maker’s mark 46 which is aged longer and has a smoother, richer flavor. true story: the french girlfriend of a guest at our home asked if she could sample some of that “make her smart” we were drinking.

c and i also enjoyed jefferson bourbon, though it wasn’t distinctive enough to be worth the price.

another small batch bourbon is bulliet frontier whiskey revived from an old family recipe.

i’m currently enjoying a small batch whiskey called dad’s hat rye, which is made in pennsylvania. c has developed a drink just for me called the counterfeit cure (in honor of my novel). 1.5 oz dad’s hat, .5 oz grand marnier, 1 oz sweet red vermouth, some drops of blood orange bitters stir over ice and pour into a chilled cocktail glass and top with homemade maraschino cherries.

as i say, my limit is one drink, so sampling all the new american bourbons, whiskies and ryes is going to take some time. i’ll share another batch as we broaden our knowledge. but i may have found the perfect second drink to enjoy after a good whiskey

– a beer aged in bourbon barrels. i thoroughly enjoyed this on a recent trip to boston along with a bowl of homemade soup. unfortunately, this beer is not distributed in pa yet so i have to just savor the memory… and keep hounding total wine in delaware to work with the brewery to get distribution to their location.

drink on!

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Filed under Counterfeit Cure, whiskey

In the Land of Plenty, Sacrifice is Good for the Soul

this year’s lenten season began on march 5th with ash wednesday.
for those of you who are not christian, lent is 40 days of fasting and reflection in preparation for the resurrection of jesus Christ.

“the term is derived from an old english word which meant the lengthening of days. we move out of the cold barrenness of winter and, as the days grow longer, long for the promise of new life which comes with spring.” words by deacon keith fournier

my childhood was immersed in all things catholic – i went to catholic schools from grades 1 through 12, almost all of our friends were catholic and i volunteered at the catholic hospital next door to where we lived. my year was driven less by secular calendar or even seasons, but by the catholic calendar. but for personal reasons and for all the negative reasons that the catholic church has been in the news lately, i walked away from it. i don’t want to be associated with an institution that has been far, far away from any kind of moral compass. in other words: i am a recovering catholic.

still, there are lessons in the writings of the church and the rituals it established. there’s a comfortable rhythm to those childhood days of preparation for easter sunday. lent is a reminder of mortality and while that may not be a thought we wish to have, the fact is that we’re all going to die.

“in an age drunk on self-worship, a reminder of the brevity of our days should draw us to our knees” source:

i like that quote. i especially like the phrase “drunk of self-worship” as i think it sums up the age we’re living in. so, a little self-sacrifice in these days before easter can go a long way to replenishing the soul.

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Filed under catholic, religion, spring, tradition

the sweetness of winter

“what good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
― john steinbeck, travels with charley: in search of america

alright all you smugwarts out there, i’m going to set you straight about places in this country (and the world) who actually have winter. to borrow from the declaration of independence: when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for those of two thirds of the nation to stand up to the bullies and say something positive about living in a place where real winter exists.

i grew up in southern california and didn’t even experience snow until i was 24 years old. i didn’t own a heavy coat, boots or a scarf and had no idea how to drive in snow until i was actually driving in snow.

that said, i have lived outside of philadelphia since 1980 and have experienced a thing or two about winter. in spite of what you see on television, philadelphia winters are not usually all that bad both in terms of snow and temperature. but sometimes, like this year, we get into a cycle of storms that pile up the snow which feeds the colder temperature and the cycle begins again.

here’s the scoop: sometimes winter is wonderful and sometimes it sucks. here’s another scoop: living in a place where there is not winter is wonderful and sometimes it sucks.

like so many other things in life, often it’s about your attitude.

here are some of the wonderful things about winter that you don’t know unless you live someplace where there is one:

falling snow is quiet. unlike noisy rain, there’s a silence about snow that’s enchanting. and because nothing grows in the winter, the landscape is enhanced by the blanket of snow. i drive some hilly, windy roads to and from work and after a snowstorm, the drive home is spectacular.

there’s a kind of pioneer spirit that is brought out in winter climate. after a snowfall the sun comes out and with it the people from their houses and that’s when the collective harrumphing and joking and shared experiences begin. people dig out their space and those of their elderly neighbors, the kids come out with all manner of “sleds” and hit the hills until they are exhausted.

snow days are relaxing days. as long as you don’t have to get around (and very often when there are big storms you don’t have to get around), you get a day to hang out in a cozy house and catch up on things you don’t normally have time to do. i personally like to bake bread and maybe make some soup or stew, but reading a good book cover to cover is a nice option too. not to mention other activities that you can imagine for yourself if it’s just you and a significant other in the house together. (watch the birth rate nine months from now)

winter teaches you to pay attention and plan. watching weather reports is not just a hobby, sometimes it’s a matter of survival. going out with a full bladder and an empty gas tank is just asking for trouble. ditto for an empty window washing fluid reservoir. planning to get out of town to someplace warm and sunny for a week is a noble goal.

going for a winter walk can be peaceful and invigorating.

finally, winter is always followed by spring. no matter how bad the winter weather, long about mid-february the light has changed and the birds are back. the change in the angle of the light is the first thing i always notice and that’s accompanied by the noise of the birds in the morning. next come the gardening catalogues and the chance to dream about ripe red tomatoes, juicy cucumbers and containers overflowing with brightly colored annuals.

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A Lovely Post

How Do I Love Thee? (Sonnet 43)
by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace.
I love thee to the level of every day’s
Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light.
I love thee freely, as men strive for right.
I love thee purely, as they turn from praise.
I love thee with the passion put to use
In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.

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