Monthly Archives: April 2014

Puzzle from Cindy/Cynthia

My friend Cindy (now Cynthia) knew I liked Rupert Bear and when she was travelling in England the year she and her folks lived in Spain she sent me a Rupert Bear puzzle and orange chocolate bar (possibly with Rupert on it) for my high school graduation. Cynthia graduated from high school a year early so she could go to Spain when her father took a year-long sabbatical from teaching. She wrote a colorful, slightly silly, slightly inspirational note on the back of the puzzle box.

June 29, 1975


Happy Happy Graduation!!

This isn’t much, but the thought behind it is!! I hope you have a super summer. And a good Fall & winter too! (why did I write that?? I’ll be talking with you before then!) Anyway, I’ll be thinking about you, struggling away on this 800 piece puzzle with sticky, orange chocolaty fingers.

Just keep a stiff upper lip & you’ll make all life’s ups and downs pass like porridge!


I’m not sure I have ever put the puzzle together, but I kept it nearly 40(!) years.

We lost touch for a while, but have reconnected on Facebook. She lives only a few hours from me and one of these days I hope to jump in the car and visit her. Maybe I will bring the puzzle and we can put it together. Together.

Letters from Dad — Letter 1 to his parents

In the box that probably belonged to my Uncle Don and Aunt Leila were some letters Dad wrote to his parents and to my aunt and uncle. Here is the oldest one to his parents. He was twenty and a half years old.

Great Lakes, Ill

Dear Folks,

Well, how is everybody? I’m feeling pretty good except for a slight cold which is getting better. Well our chow is a little better this week because a different company is feeding us. The company that is feeding us now has made an agreement with our C.O. that they feed us good and we feed them good when we get in chow hall. Our weekend is just about over, it’s Mon. night now and we have just finished swabbing the decks with sand, washed all the windows inside and out with Bon-ami and scrubbed every piece of wood in the building. I got all my clothes washed yesterday and left them out all day to bleach.

How is everybody at home? Is dad feeling pretty good, I hope so. I hope everybody else is pretty good too.

Say when you send my camera will you send back my toiletry kit and a good map of Illinois, Indiana or any other state you have. Send on of Chicago too if you can find one.

I’ll have to quit now because they are going to turn out the light.

Goodbye for now.


P.S. Don’t forget to write

I still live at the same place, ha! ha!

My Wants by Elvin, age 7

One of the attic kneewall finds was a box that probably came from my Aunt Leila and Uncle Don’s house. In that box, in an envelope marked Portrait Reorder Division was, among other things, a piece of paper with “To Elvin” written on one side and the following poem written in nearly completely faded purple ink on the other side. At first I thought it was simply an old mimeographed copy of something and nearly threw it away, but when I took a closer look I saw that it was a handwritten poem, signed by Elvin — my dad.

My Wants

Elvin, age 7

I always want more than I can tell
And other folks just want a smell.
I always want things for my bike
But I don’t always get what I like.

When I ever go into the store
I want those things more and more.
I want something that’ll make a noise
But of course you know I’m like most boys.

I like to make airplanes you know
I rather do that than play in the snow.
But if that would make me real happy
I don’t think I’d have time to help my pappy.

Here is the actual poem with the contrast turned up a bit so some of the writing is legible.


Squeeze Coin Purse

Not much reminds me of my dad more than a squeeze coin purse. He carried one in his pocket at all times, packed full of change. The points where you squeezed the purse were usually darker than the rest of the purse from the motor oil that stained his fingers for most of his life. I remember him pulling the purse out of his front pant pocket, squeezing it between his thumb and middle finger and giving it a shake while holding it out for me to choose a coin. I remember the smell of the purse, a combination of copper from the pennies warmed from the heat of his pant pocket, plastic and oil. I remember the sound of the coins hitting each other.

Among the things I found in my Mom’s attic was an old, barely used squeeze coin purse. It was not one of dads, or maybe it was a spare. It is stiff and slightly cracked — probably because it was exposed to heat and cold in the kneewall, but also because it has to be at close to 40 years old. I know this because on the back is an advertisement for the B&B Tavern in Chetek, Wisconsin and my folks stopped going to Chetek for vacations in the mid-1970s when they bought their own property on the other side of the state.

This will be another of the growing pile of useless items the kids will need to deal with when I’m gone because tossing this would be like tossing out a warm memory of my dad, and we can’t have that!


Where’s Your Mecca?

This morning as I gazed sleepily at my Moosewood Restaurant coffee cup I remembered fondly the time I dragged my husband, young children and mother to the Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. We were on our way to or back from Toronto and, since I’d been a loyal fan of their cookbooks for several years, I wanted to eat at the restaurant — something that had been on my wishlist for years — so the detour was made. The food was great and just being at the restaurant was special, so I think the detour was worth it.

The only other Meccas for me were C. S. Lewis’ home and Watership Down — both of which I visited in the late 1970s when Jeremy’s father drove Jeremy and me down the backbone of England to visit relatives near Dover. He asked if there were any [literary — he was a librarian] sites I wanted to see and of course I said Oxford and then added Watership Down since that was nearby. I believe we also visited Stonehenge on that trip. So, I suppose we hit three of my Meccas that year.

This post makes me want to revisit (in this blog) every place Jack Burgoyne took me. He was a huge influence on the adult I became. While I don’t regret my decisions about his son, I do regret that meant I lost Jack.

Do you have a Mecca? Where is it? Have you visited it? Did it live up to your expectations?

Chopped Salad

Only recently did I hear about this newfangled kind of salad called a “chopped salad”. My sister-in-law (well, ex-sister-in-law, but she lives with my mom so who’s keeping track and I love cooking with her and respect many of her culinary opinions) brought me some from her second job and I loved it and I usually don’t much like salads. I thought at first that it was just the name of the salad, but Jill expained to me that it was more the method — everything was chopped up and you ended up eating more vegetables than you would with a big fluffy girly salad. It made sense.

More recently I looked up “chopped salad recipe” and found many recipes, but Wikipedia redirects it to “Cobb Salad”.

So the other day I took a head of romaine, some radishes, part of a cucumber, part of an onion, part of an avocado, a few grape tomatoes and chopped the hell out of them. I added some ready-made dressing and served it to Dean for dinner (with something else of course — he’s a guy after all). We both loved it.

Thinking about it, though, this is not new. My mom made chopped salad when I was a kid except she used iceberg lettuce. Years later, I remember scolding her for cutting the vegetables too small when she was making a salad in my kitchen.

Strange how things come back around. We even have a restaurant in the area called Chop’t that specializes in chopped salad. It’s good. I’ve been there but didn’t put it together until I searched for chopped salad on good old Google and Chop’t was the first link.

So now, instead of serving fancy baby lettuce / spinach greens with walnuts, cranberries and goat cheese with a vinaigrette dressing I just chop up a bunch of vegetables and actually enjoy what I am eating.