Monday, December 21, 2015

KEEP THE FAITH!


During this holiday season, giving is what we'll be doing most. Weeks before Christmas, we'll  have sent beautiful cards with sweet sentiments to everybody we know and love. Shiny bright presents under the tree will be tagged for our moms, dads, children, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and a multitude of dear friends. Delectable foods will be shared with company, countless toasts of holiday cheer wishing all health and happiness will be made, and warm embraces will be given as family and friends head for home.

As the old saying goes, "Giving is better than receiving," and I couldn't agree more. But the one precious thing we have and need to keep especially during Christmas is your faith. As Christians we believe that God sent His beloved Son, Jesus, into the world so that all mankind will be redeemed. No greater gift has ever been given before! And it is this gift that we must hold on to throughout all the days of our lives.

Millions of folks will attend Christmas services to comemorate the birth of Christ. They will kneel before the Nativity and thank the Lord for blessings they've received throughout the year. They will pray for those souls who have left this world and ask that the dearly departed enjoy the heavenly bliss promised to all of us. They will implore the New Born Babe to guide them through the pain and suffering that visits everyone at one time or another, and they will beg for the courage to walk through the Valley of Tears with hope for a better tomorrows.

The older I get, the need for material things lessens more and more. If you asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year, I would say peace and happiness for my family, friends, and most importantly, for the world. And as time passes, I look back and see that faith has been the most treasured gift I've ever received. I was born into a family who valued their belief in God above all else. We enjoyed many years of prosperity and good health. During those periods, it was easy to believe. But we also endured painful events of loss and deprivation. We could have easily raised our fists to heaven and denounced the existence of God. Yet by keeping the faith, our family prayed harder, drew closer, and weathered the storms of life together.

Personally I have gone through times when I felt it would be better to leave this world than to be a burden to my loved ones. It was only because of my faith that I chose to move forward and conquer my demons, and I'm so very happy I did. A number of my friends couldn't see the light at the end of the tunnel and made a different choice. If not for my faith, I could have easily made the same decision.

During this holiest of times, give generously, spread Christmas joy to all you meet, and celebrate your blessings with good food, good wine, and good people!

Just remember to KEEP THE FAITH!


Monday, December 14, 2015

Grammy, Family, And Faith

If you're lucky enough to have your grammy with you and if you've been blessed to be a grammy, this time of the year is especially wonderful. Christmas provides the family an opportunity to listen to grammy's stories of long ago when she herself was a child, watch her face light up when she talks about what her mother and father did to make their home warm and inviting, empathize with grammy as her eyes fill with tears remembering how her Zedo sat at the head of the table on Christmas Eve, raising his glass and toasting to the blessing they'd received throughout the year while Baba served those traditional foods that only graced the table at Christmas.

And if possible, attend church services together. For grammy, having her family with her singing Silent Night and Joy to the World, awaiting the start of midnight mass is priceless. Her faith which was instilled in her from birth, is what has kept her going over the years. It is these beliefs that allowed grammy to face the trials and tribulations of life and be the stronger for it. Grammy is proud of her family and is filled with a deep sense of satisfaction in knowing that when she is gone,
her son and daughters and their families will carry on the traditions she held so close to her heart.

When opening presents, sneak a peek at grammy as she anticipates the  reactions of her grandchildren. Just knowing that she has made some of their dreams come true is the best gift grammy could ever receive. She doesn't need things, she is perfectly content with hearing the squeals and wows of the people who mean most to her in the entire world.

Lastly, remember to shower her with hugs and kisses as you depart for home. Knowing that she's loved and appreciated is what keeps grammy full of life, perhaps so full, she'll be around for next Christmas, too!


Monday, December 7, 2015

Should Your Children Know About WWII?

I wasn't born in 1941, but I've heard about that horrific event since I was a wee tot. Although my dad didn't qualify to take part in WWII, my uncle, Tom did. From the time I could remember, he occasionally shared terrible details of what happened to so many of his buddies. The one that still sticks in my brain had to do with the bombing of the USS Oklahoma. Uncle Tom had a friend aboard who jumped ship trying to escape the fiery hell he found himself in. The screaming of being burned alive was deafening, and in the end, no one survived.

I was born in 1944, the year WWII was winding down. Again being an infant, I had no knowledge of the many parades and celebrations that were held to welcome 'our boys' back from the war. My mom often told me about how she and our relatives lined the sidewalks of Pittsburgh as the soldiers were transported throughout the city, smiling and waving to signal their gratitude for making it home alive.

Throughout grade school and high school, there was little if any emphasis on WWII. We touched on WWI at the end of the year, but somehow never got around to Pearl Harbor. If it hadn't been for Uncle Tom and my family, sad to say I would have been totally ignorant of the sacrifices so many of our servicemen made, even the ultimate sacrifice, to keep our country, our world, and kids like me safe.

I hope that our schools today make it a priority to tell their students about WWII. Their purpose should not be to instill fear into the hearts of the young, but rather to make them aware of what their great-grandfathers did to make sure they'd always live in a free nation. These men accepted their duty to protect and serve without question. They were selfless individuals who knew the perils they faced and yet were willing to die so that others would never know the horrors of war on American soil.

Today is the 74th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Take this opportunity to tell your children about what happened on that fateful day. Perhaps take the family to a parade honoring those men who endured and gave so much. Encourage the young to ask questions, and answer them honestly.

Children are our hope for the future. In order for them to be instrumental in effecting world peace, they must first be aware of the wars that happened so many years ago so they can avoid the mistakes that led up to these skirmishes of the past. Teach them conflict resolution skills when they're two, so that when they become our leaders of tomorrow they will have mastered these important techniques.

Above all, remember Pearl Harbor today as the beginning of a positive outcome. In 1945 WWII was over, and the United States of America remained a harbor of freedom!

God bless those who fought so valiantly during those years of unrest and uncertainty, and God bless the servicemen and women who continue to give of themselves so we may never have to engage in another world war again.











Monday, November 30, 2015

Giving Better Than Receiving!

Ho,Ho,Ho, and a very Merry Christmas to all of my many friends and family. I believe that giving is so much more fulfilling than anything I could receive in this stage of my life. My Grammy's Gang series was a joy to write and then dedicate each book to one of my awesome, hilarious grandchildren.

My 6 grandsons and 1 beautiful granddaughter have enjoyed their own special book along with those of their siblings and cousins by reading them over and over again. Some of them are well-passed the recommended ages 3-7, yet still get a kick out of them. The youngest of the seven, Gabe, is just now seeing the entire series for the first time. Oddly, When Grammy Goes Away, is his favorite. It's a story of experiencing loss. I know he doesn't understand the implications, but I think he feels connected somehow. Hopefully when I do travel to the heavens, Gabe will remember my book, and be able to deal with my passing a little easier.
By participating in my Grammy's Gang Complete Series (7bks) Giveaway, you'll have the opportunity to win these wonderfully written, beautifully illustrated, developmentally appropriate paperback versions valued at over $50. The Giveaway is scheduled for Nov. 30 - Dec. 11. Entry form is just below Grammy's Gang photo on my blog.













Good luck to all and to all a good day!



Monday, November 9, 2015

Finally Found What I've Been Looking For!

In order to dispel the mystique surrounding the title of this post, I'll tell you what I've been looking for over the past 53 years, the best chocolate chip cookie recipe in the entire world! But before I graciously gift you with the specifics, you need to know the wrenching details about my never-ending quest

In 1958 I was a resident freshman at Vincentian Academy, an all-girls school in North Hills, PA. Dolly, one of my first roommmates who hailed from the South Side which was a neighborhood not far from my hometown, brought along a cylindrical tin can filled with the most amazing chocolate chip cookies ever made. Her mother was the proverbial stay-at-home mom who loved cooking and baking for her hubby and their five children. When the middle child decided to attend highschool out of town, Mrs. Matonak made sure she would have something comforting during her first few weeks of adjustment. About ten minutes into our getting acquainted, Dolly offered us (Barb, Cecilia, and myself) a cookie. Of course we eargerly accepted and from that moment we were hooked! The cookies were round, golden brown mounds laden with tons of chocolately goodness. Every bite just melted in your mouth. Luckily Dolly invited us to take more, and, of course, we grabbed as many as our grubby little hands could hold.

For the next few years my addiction  was satisfied over and over again since Dolly's mom kept the supply coming every two weeks or so. But after graduation, the four freshman of 1958 left Vincentian to make their way into the world, thus leaving their home-away-from-home and those scrumptous cookies behind.

In 1968 I married and over time, set up a household, gave birth to three amazing children, and delved into cooking, baking, cleaning, washing clothes, ironing, shopping, and everything else that came along with being a wife and mother. I lost touch with Dolly and Cecilia, but remained close to Barb since we lived only a mile apart. We were very good friends until her passing in 2008. I miss her so very much.
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Over the years, I experimented with a slue of chocolate chip cookie recipes from the one on the Nestle's Tollhouse package, to the ones I found in my Betty Crocker cookbook, to the ones printed in the newspapers at holiday time, to the ones my friends and neighbors said were the absolute best. However none came close to the ones Dolly's mom made.

I tried using all butter, half butter half shortening, all shortening, but  mine always came out either flat and crispy, or hard balls you could literally break a tooth on. My kids would eat one or two and then conveniently forget they were in the cookie jar. I usually ended up throwing them away. After years of defeat, I finally gave up and bought chocolate chip cookies from a local bakery, which by the way, were never as good as the ones I had at the academy.

About 18 months ago after 50 years, I reconnected with Dolly on facebook. After messaging back and forth, we decided to meet for lunch to talk over old times. Our first get-together was filled with laughter and tears, and we promised to keep in touch regularly. And although we talked at length about the tin can and her mom's famous cookies, somehow I never asked for the recipe.

By chance, while checking my Pinterest account last week , I discovered Karri from the Pacific Northwest and her Happy Money Saver blog and her recipe for Master Chocolate Chip Cookies http://happymoneysaver.com/the-chocolate-chip-cookie-recipe-my-dreams-are-made-of/ At first I was skeptical since I'd been let down so many times. But when I saw the picture of her cookies, the memory of what Mrs.Matonak's looked and tasted like flooded all of my senses. I just knew my search was finally over. I printed out Karri's easy to follow directions, and after carefully completing each step, I was amazed at the final product. I filled a glass with cold milk and took my first bite and was immediately transported back in time to that day in 1958 when I first met three young girls and tasted the most amazing chocolate chip cookies in the whole wide world!


       

                                                                                                           Master Chocolate Chip Cookies


I'm sure you'd agree that this one single picture is worth more than a million words! And speaking of words, if you'd like to learn more about our days at Vincentian Academy in 1958, I've written a book, Promises, which although set in the Fifties, deals with developmental and social issues tweens/teens face today. Any of you who were teenagers during that time, will enjoy reading Promises as well since going back in time can be both refreshing and theraputic.


                                                                                        http://tinyurl.com/nr2ntpx



Yes, I've finally found what I've been looking for! Whatever it is you need to find, my advice is to never, ever give up since it could be a mere second away from being discovered!

Monday, November 2, 2015

All I Want For Christmas...

Of course all of you can finish that line, 'is my two front teeth', and at 71 I'm so happy to report that I still have mine! But after many hours of serious consideration, my list  is finally ready to send to Santa, I'd like to share it with you.

All I Want For Christmas is...
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* to wake up each morning thankful to be able to serve others another day.
* to read the morning paper and discover there are more positive articles than negative ones.
* to write stories for young children that have an impact on their growth and development.
* to hit the gym with as much enthusiasm as I can muster at my age.
* to enjoy lunch with a friend who remembers 'twisting' with Chubby Checker.
* to walk 'Shadow' through our neighborhood meeting and greeting our human and animal friends.
* to sit in the familyroom watching Dr. Phil while my hubby plays Sudoku without conversation.
* to receive a phone call from one of my seven grandchildren who want to share their day with grammy
* to pop leftovers into the microwave and call it 'dinner'.
* to get back to writing stories for tweens/teens about issues they are facing in their formative years.
* to spend five minutes in a steamy, warm shower without a care in the world.
* to play a game or two of hearts on the computer and win!
* to watch an hour or two of my favorite TV comedy shows and laugh hysterically.
* to read a couple of chapters of a 'who-dunnit' in bed and figure out just who the culprit could be.
* to wish hubby and Shadow goodnight with a kiss and a pet for both.
* to give thanks for the wonderful day and pray for peace in the hearts of eveybody on the planet.
* to turn out the light and have a restful sleep with sweet dreams filled with sugar plums and ice cream.

I know my list is quite lengthy, and perhaps I won't get everything I'm asking for, but as long as I receive a few of them, my Christmas couldn't be  merrier!

My one and only wish for my family, my friends, and all of you is that  your lists will include what will truly bring happiness. Being together, going to your house of worship, carrying on Christmas traditions, telling stories of holidays past, and sharing food and drink at a common table are the best gifts anyone could receive on Christmas Day.

Although a little early, I wish everyone, no matter your beliefs, a blessed and peaceful holiday from the bottom of my heart!







Monday, October 26, 2015

How 'HAPPY' is Halloween?

Typical scenario goes like this: kids are in costume an hour beforehand, constantly asking, Is it time to go yet?" Parents are trying to get supper over with, tending to a crying infant, and deciding on who is going to run after their trick-or treaters, and who is going to stay at home distributing candy.
The unlucky person who was chosen by default to follow their kids as they run from door-to-door is finding it extremely difficult to keep tabs on three kids taking off in different directions. No amount of threatening to return home will deter them, since they can't even hear you above the screams and howls of the night. After two grueling hours of traversing the neighborhood, you and your ghosts and goblins make it home amidst arguing that Halloween wasn't over yet since there were ten more minutes until curfew. Once inside, the masks come off, the sacks are spilled on the familyroom floor and real trouble begins. First off, the kids begin unwrapping candy at the speed of light, shoving gobs of it into their mouths at one time, and eagerly search for more! Mom or Dad insists they've had enough, and that's when the whining begins. Finally when these poor, beleaguered adults are at their wits end, they snatch the goodies off the floor, throw everything into a huge pot, and demand the kids go upstairs, get ready for bed, and not make another sound. Unfortunately because of all the sugar that's been consumed in the last five minutes, plenty of sounds of disapproval will be heard well into the night.


IS EVERYBODY HAPPY?

I'll let that be a rhetorical question that I don't expect to be answered!

I'd like to propose a different scenario from the typical that goes like this: Talk to your neighbors about having a Halloween House Party for the first hour of the time scheduled for local trick-or treating. Once deciding on who will host the party, talk to your kids at least two weeks beforehand about how Halloween will be celebrated this year. Tell them everybody will have dinner together first, then play games, and maybe make a craft. Nobody will be in costumes during that time. When the party is over, they can have a 'get-up gig' where they help each other get into costume and head for the streets! Ask them for suggestions regarding the types of food, games, and crafts they'd be interested in.

Next get together with the host. Have each involved parent present the list he or she gathered from the children, and vote on exactly what food, games, and if necessary, craft will be best-suited for the party. Allow each adult to choose which of the duties they would be willing to prepare and preside over.

On the night of Halloween, families can gather half an hour earlier to share dinner together. Pizza, hot dogs and beans, tacos, and chili are kid-friendly foods and simple to prepare and eat. When finished eating ask everybody to clean up their own space and hurry to the games area. Some of the traditional choices may include: Scary Pumpkin (Hot Potato), Musical Chairs with Halloween tunes, bobbing for apples, Taste Test (identifying certain foods while blindfolded), and many more that I'm sure you've played when you were a kid. If a craft is involved, make it quick and simple.

Before the 'get-up gig' insist each child use the restroom. Give the children ten minutes to get dressed in their costumes, tell them which parents will be accompanying them on their travels, and ask that they try to stay together as best they can. For the ensuing hour, Halloween as usual.

Upon returning to their respective homes, lead each one to their own designated space where they can dump their booty. Allow them time to inspect their treasures and pick three pieces they can consume immediately, plus five more they can hide away and enjoy all week long. The rest will be contributed to a common stash which they will have access to once a day until finished or they don't want anymore, which ever comes first!

Consider the two scenarios I've presented and decide for yourselves which is best. I'm not going to influence you in any way, but if you're looking to put the 'HAPPY' back in Halloween, I'd strongly suggest the second one.

Have a safe and HAPPY HALLOWEEN!






















Monday, October 19, 2015

Helicopter Moms, Stay Grounded!

In a recent article, a student relations administrator at Stanford University lamented over the fact that so many freshmen entering college for the first time couldn't function from day to day without constant communications with their parents, especially their moms. When issues arose such as what electives should be considered, should  they choose the earlier lunch period versus the later one, or which clothes went with which when doing laundry,these otherwise academically brilliant young adults were at a complete loss.

How could such intelligent students be so inept at such mundane choices, you may ask? And did they just become so needy since entering the higher halls of education? I doubt it.

It seems to me that moms of today are so over-involved in their children's lives from day one, that allowing them to make even the simplest of decisions is completely foreign to them. If an infant suddenly  rolls over by accident and is somewhat startled, mom immediately rushes to aid and abet her little darling before even a whimper can be sounded.

At two, God forbid the child refuses to eat fruits and veggies and opts for chocolate chip cookies exculsively! Forty years ago when my own kids went through the same phase, our pediatrican said that eventually they's switch to hot dogs, so just ride it out.  In my opinion, he was a very wise man in additon to being a first rate physician.

When starting Kindergaten, these ill-equipped youngsters are actually frightened when asked to say their names in front of the class or explain a Show-N-Tell item. They haven't be afforded opportunites to make their own decisions and accept the consequences for them. Moms and dads speak for their children, make choices they believe to be in their best interests, and accept responsibilities for their actions rather than allowing them to be held accountable.

I'm sure these parents are well-intentioned, but not allowing very young children to make their own choices makes them insecure and deters developmental growth. Decision-making like walking, talking, and feeding one self is a skill that is learned only when permitted to practice over and over again. If a child is carried, spoken for, and fed by an adult, it will take that much longer for him or her to gain competence in these areas.

By no means am I advocating that a three-year-old be let loose to roam the neighborhood unattended. That would be considered child neglect by today's standards. Albeit, my brother and I did exactly that in the Fifties, however times were different then, Life was so much simplier, people were so much more authenic and lived close to family where everybody watched out for each other.

What I am saying is to provide your children with opportunities to think and act for themselves. So what if they choose to wear stripes and polka dots to preschool at the same time. What matters is that they were the ones to decide what looked good together and they would be the ones to endure the strange stares of the other parents as they walked into class. Perhaps their classmates would find their outfits appealing, and appear in similar attire the next day. Perhaps not, but in either case the decision-making process is what's important here, not the fashion statement.

As the years quickly pass and your youngsters become teens, having allowed them to make their own decisions along the way will produce huge benefits. Their skills will be nicely honed, and they will be more than likely to make better decisions since they've been practicing for years. Those who have been over-protected by helicopter parents will oftentimes find themselves inadequate when it comes to choosing the best possible scenerio in certain instances. Sometimes making wrong choices can have devastating consequences, and as parents we have the responsibility to prepare our children long before our teens are ever faced with such dilemmas.

From birth, if we adults stay grounded and realize that even infants can and should be allowed to choose their own toys, their own food preferences, their own environmental surroundings, our college-bound sons and daughters will have no trouble deciding upon an elective, picking a lunch period, or doing their own laundry without having to make frantic calls to you.

Come on, parents, land those helicopters and stay grounded and watch your children become self-sufficient, independent people who are destined to change the world.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Pittsburgh Pirates: LET'S DO THIS!

Yesterday our Pittsburgh Pirates secured home field advantage for the wild card game against the Chicago Cubs. Beat them on  Wednesday and the Pirates play the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. Beat them and Pittsburgh would play the New York Mets or the Los Angeles Dodgers for the NL title.

That would bring our well-deserving home boys to the World Series! We've been in the playoffs for the past three years and now is the time to move ahead for the ultimate prize. Clint Hurdle and his boys of summer are ready and able. The milllions of Pittsburgh fans are ready and waiting. In my opinion, the world is ready and eager to join us in this long-awaited celebration!

Every player on the Pittsburgh Pirates team has contributed to their current success. They've played their hearts out, they've danced in the dugout, they've pitched like cannons on the battle fields of every ball park from the East coast to the West coast. The Pirates have swung their bats with the speed and power of mighty meteors. They've fought until bloodied, argued with umps until rudely ejected, and got into some heated confrontations with the opposing enemies.

Every fan has contributed to their success as well. They've purchased tickets to fill the stadium time and time again. They've poured their hearts into every pitch and every hit. They've been saddened by every loss, but never have given up the thought of going the distance. Those of us who couldn't be at the ballpark have been glued to our TVs doing exactly the same as those in attendance. We believe winning the World Series this year is not only possible, but written in the stars.

Come on, Pirates, this is our time to shine. You're in the driver's seat, and we've come along for the ride of a lifetime.

LET'S DO THIS!



Monday, September 28, 2015

CALLING ALL CULTURES, COUNTRIES, CREEDS

I'm in the process of beginning a new Grammy's Gang series. If you're not familiar with my wonderfully funny and factual children's books, you can acquaint yourself with them by
checking out the Flo Barnett books on the right side of this blog.

The new series, Grammy's Gang Around the World, will begin by introducing children ages 2-4 who attend preschool to the children in the U.S. I am in need of actual photos of both boys and girls in these age groups who are typical of the country or nationality of their family heritage. They must be clear shots that either depict a child at play or in a preschool setting. The photos will not be returned and no royalties will be forthcoming if included in the book.

However, if your child's picture is accepted and ultimated included, he or she will receive a signed copy of the paperback and an eBook version as well. Their names and addresses will not appear in the book.
At the end of the book, if you choose, your family name will be added to the contributors page.

My mission is to bring the children of the world together through visual familiarity. I think it's the first step in having youngsters accept and embrace diversity rather than fear it. Please help to make this goal a reality.

If you are interested, please contacted me: flo.grammysgang@gmail.com
I will be happy to answer any questions you may have.

I look forward to your participation. Join me to take a small step to someday reach world peace.

love ya'll

Flo Barnett
Grammy's Gang author





TYPICAL BIRTHDAY PARTY FOR A SIX YEAR OLD BOY!

So Beckham's real birthday is today, September 28. Although he'll only be celebrating at school with a cookie cake, and then presents from mom, dad, and his two brothers after dinner, he's been partying since Friday.

First off, after school he had a flag football game played in the mud! How cool is that for a birthday present! Next he played with friends on the street until dark!

On Saturday, he attended a friend's birthday party in the morning,  followed by lazer tag and bowling in the afternoon.  Afterwards all his friends came by for cupcakes and more football playing until none could tolerate another down and went WILLINGLY in the house to shower and go directly to bed.

Sunday church service at a new and very fun play made the start of Beckham's day extremely special. He couldn't be happier when in stead of returning home for lunch, the entire family went to KFC for chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, biscuits, and such, Yum!

In late afternoon, Kaden and Tyler, his cousins arrrived along with another friend, Lincoln. Muma, and Pupa came bringing gifts and a giant football cake. His uncle, Big Bar, and aunt Kelly presented him with a blue, full-sized football! Goodness gracious, how much more could one boy take!

It had rained the entire weekend so the backyard was perfect for, of all things, more FOOTBALL! The four older boys dashed into the muddy field, played their hearts out for two solid hours, and were covered in mud from head to toe. WOW! HOW COULD ONE BOY BE SO LUCKY!

After changing into dry clothes, everybody gathered around the cake for song and celebration! Digging into the sweet dessert put the topping on a perfect sixth birthday party that lasted three days and still wouldn't be completely over until today!

Happy birthday, Hammie, my sweet six year old grandson. You deserved all that fun and much, much more! I wasn't there in body, but I enjoyed every single minute of it in spirit!

Always and Forever!   Grammy



Monday, September 21, 2015

MY BABA'S FAVORITE SATURDAY SLOVAK/POLISH RECIPES




After Baba and Mom finished preparations for Sunday’s chicken soup and noodles, my mother went about her cleaning chores while my grandmother concentrated on Saturday’s dinner menu. If she wasn’t sure of what to make, she’d occasionally ask for my input. One of her meals on my ‘favorites’ list was steak smothered in onions. It just happened to be Mom’s favorite dish as well.

My brother, Dan, however despised onions. So when steak and onions were served, he carefully removed every speck of the hated vegetable before eating the meat. He never complained because he loved steak.

Baba would make a quick run to the butcher shop located just behind Utes’ Grocery Store to purchase the freshest cuts of round steak. She’d usually pick up two or three pounds of kielbasa since it could be refrigerated for several days without being compromised. My grandmother would never think of freezing anything for convenience purposes.

 
    
                        STEAK SMOTHERED IN ONIONS
                       http://tinyurl.com/ood8xqv


September 9, 1944 was no different than any other Saturday with regard to cooking and chores. Although Mom was nine months pregnant with her second child, she helped Baba in the kitchen then went upstairs to clean out her refrigerator and mop down the floor. She hummed along as she smelled the wonderful aroma of steak and onions baking in my grandmother’s oven. Dinner was less than an hour away, and Mom looked forward to sitting around Baba’s table with her entire family enjoying one of everybody’s favorite meals.

Unfortunately for Mom, her water broke, labor began with a vengeance, and she was relegated to her bed to birth her baby daughter, yours truly!
Luckily Dr.Ruth Stimetz was our neighbor. After an urgent call from Baba, the kindly doctor appeared at the back door eager to render her services. According to what I’ve been told, I stubbornly refused to leave the safety of my mother’s womb without a fight. After an hour or two though, I made my debut to a happy, awaiting audience. Unfortunately Mom never got to eat her steak and onions that day!





                         ORANGE AND QUIRK BABOVKA
                         http ://tinyurl.com/p89vc8y

In Prague, the word for this delicious, fragrant dessert is ‘babovka.’  In our family, we called it Baba’s pound cake. Although the recipe I’ve provided uses orange for flavoring, my grandmother usually preferred lemon. Whenever she made it, the whole house smelled of citrus goodness.

On the day I was born, the babovka was already cooling on the back porch. Right before dinner, Baba planned to sprinkle powdered sugar on it and serve a thick slice to each one of us.

I’ve been told that in all the excitement of my pending birth, my grandmother barely had time to set out the steak and onions before Dr. Stimetz called her to assist. Zedo and Uncle Tom ate their meal as usual while Dad, holding my two-year-old brother, Danny, paced in the hallway outside the bedroom. When my cry pierced the air, Dad, Danny, Zedo, and Uncle Tom stopped everything and came to see what I was. I think they were all happy to welcome a baby girl into our growing family.

No one ate the pound cake because Baba forgot about it until days later.






    
                                                    PUPPY LOVE
            http://tinyurl.com/mhfutcp 
         
PUPPY LOVE (When We Were Kids, Bk. 2) is the second chapter book of this series. I originally wrote it for tweens and teens. However, because it takes place in the Fifties, I soon discovered that the baby boomers, folks born 1941-1944, are just as enamored with the story as the kids. PUPPY LOVE takes people back to their own childhood, which makes them able to identify with Betty Lou and Danny Kolinski on so many levels.

When Betty Lou and Danny experience their first taste of puppy love, they haven’t a clue how to deal with it. One minute Lou couldn’t be happier to have Bobby Stupar’s attention, and in the next instant she was pushing him to the ground in disgust. When Danny realized Emily Salay liked him, he was elated. However when school started, he avoided her so his friends wouldn’t tease him. When Emily discovered his inhibitions, she dropped him like the proverbial ‘hot potato.’
Only when Baba told Betty Lou the story of her dog, Millie, and her puppies, did the girl understand the highs and lows of first love.

I hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Saturday recipes. As a family we looked forward to every meal because we knew how much love and caring went into the preparation. We were never served anything that came out of a box or can. With Zedo seated at the head, we respectfully gathered around Baba’s kitchen table to share blessings, food, and conversation. We cherished this time together and were excused only when our plates were emptied and our stomachs, full.
I also hope you get a chance to read Puppy Love and the following three books in the series, Playing Hooky ,Pimples and Periods, and the newest addition, Promises. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.










                                          

Monday, September 14, 2015

Our Troubled Youth


Today's youth are troubled and, in my mind, I'm trying to figure out why when they are born into an advanced society with so many advantages.

When I was a kid, most folks had an elementary school education, worked for minimum pay in less than favorable conditions, and oftentimes found themselves on strike because of unfair labor practices. Money was scarce,  people stood in food lines to acquire basic necessities like flour, butter, and cheese, and our men went to war, many of them never to return again.

I was ten years old before our family purchased our first television set. Programs aired from 5:00p.m. until 8 o'clock, and as far as I can remember, consisted of newsreels and Howdy Dowdy. We went to bed early listening to the radio. My favorite broadcast was Inner Sanctum. It always opened with the sound of a squeaking door that sent chills up my spine. The Thin Man was another program which featured detective stories that were always solved in thirty minutes, and the good guys were always victorious.

We lived in our maternal grandparents' home, and were surrounded by our relatives whose dwellings were only a few blocks away. We attended the same church, went to the same school, and played at the same community center. Nobody was a stranger, everybody knew everybody, and looked out for one another. The adults socialized at the Slavs Club on the weekends, while the children gathered for sleepovers being supervised by the grandparents. When Baba said it was time for bed, no one dared make a peep until the sun rose the next morning.

I was never exposed to drugs during my youth. I don't believe anybody I knew or hung out with was either. We never even thought of drinking beer or having sex. As a matter of fact, I'm not even sure we knew what sex was let alone be interested in experiencing it. We never used the words vagina or penis because we had no idea there were such words. We called both 'pee pees'.

I'm sure many of you reading this would consider our growing up years sadly wanting, and our ignorance during that time in our lives, terribly naive. And in many respects, you'd be absolutely right. But in our defense, we lived a simple, carefree life with strong familial bonds,were schooled in our faith and values, and enjoyed a ton of wholesome outdoor exploration. We were always in the company of folks who had our backs, and would never do anything to contaminate our bodies and minds. Our troubles consisted of getting a C on a spelling test, or having to skip a matinee because we didn't have the quarter for admission.

After jotting these memories down, I've discovered I've actually answered my original question, Today's youth are troubled BECAUSE they are born into an advanced society with SO MANY ADVANTAGES!



Monday, September 7, 2015

IN LABOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Every Labor Day I'm reminded of the three times I was IN LABOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! With Joy, since she was my first, even though I had a spinal and didn't feel anything after that, I thought it was extremely painful and vowed never to have another child as long as I lived. Having a bunch of hemroids certainly had a lot to do with my determined decision.

However thirteen months later I found myself in the same predicament, but with totally different results. My contractions started at 11:00p.m. and at 12:43a.m. my son Barry popped out so quickly I was afraid the doc wouldn't catch him in time! 

Okay so a girl and a boy, done with having kids, right? Oh no, 8 YEARS LATER, I was pregnant once again. Not happy about it, but ready to become a mother for the third and final time!

I was positive I'd told the nurse I wanted a spinal, but somehow that info. didn't transfer to the new person on duty when the shift changed at 6:30a.m. I kept waiting for the shot, but it never came. All of a sudden I was wheeled into the delivery room about to give birth naturally. I had no training in that type of delivery and never imagined what I was in for.

The contradictions increased one hundred fold and I felt every freakin one of them. I started screaming that I needed a shot and the nurse said it was too late for that. That's when I began cursing my husband, the doctor, the nurse, and anybody else I could think of. What galled me the most though, was when the nurse offered my husband a seat to help alleviate HIS STRESS. I wanted to punch both of them right in their midsections to let them feel just a smidget of what I was going through.

As Kristy, my second daughter, was literally being yanked out of me, I actually felt her whole body coming down the birth canal, and was certain my insides were about to come out as well!

When she finally arrived, I wanted to know what the hell just happened. My doctor smiled at me and said I had delivered a beautiful baby girl the natural way. After a few choice words, I looked into her sweet face and decided NO MORE LABOR FOR THIS CHICK, EVER!

So, to all the mom-to-be, and to all the moms that are, I say 'bah-bumbug' to labor, both the kind that involves work for cash, and the kind that involves pain and suffering in order to bring a child into this world who will take everything you have, especially your heart!

Monday, August 31, 2015

GRAMMY, WHO DOES THAT?

Last evening I received a call from my nine-year-old granddaughter, Brenna. She's been in school for a week and a half now and had lots to tell me. We talked about who was in her class, who her teacher was, and what was her favorite subject so far. A number of her friends were in the same fourth grade section, her teacher is the same one her brother had, and she likes IM best of all.

"What was IM, I asked?" 

"Instrumental music," she explained in a way that somehow I should have known that."

"Why IM?"

"Because it's fun!"

"What's fun about it?"

"Grammy, when the instructor shows me how to play a note on my trumpet, and then tells me to do the same, I do it but it comes out like a sick elephant's painful moan!" 

"So what's fun about that?"

"It's so funny, that's what! Brenna says as she laughs hysterically.

Kids, you gotta love em!

Somehow we got on the subject of lockdown drills. With all the shootings that have occurred in schools over the past ten years, these type of practices are mandatory now.

"What exactly do you do during these drills?" I asked.

"If the gunman is in our area, the teacher locks the door and tells us to hide in a closet, or use our desks as a shield. We're supposed to grab things we can throw at him if he should get in and be ready to run out if a pathway becomes available."

"And if he's not in your area?"

"Then we are supposed to follow the teacher to the nearest exit and run away from the school as fast and as far away as we can."

"The thing that bothers me the most, Grammy, is that we never know when these drills are going to happen and if they're real or just practice. That makes me so nervous I almost want to cry."

"I'm so sad you have to go through that, honey, but it's better to be safe than sorry," I said.

"Grammy, who does that anyway? Why would somebody want to come into a school and shoot kids he doesn't even know? If he's so miserable, why doesn't he just shoot himself and leave us alone?"

"I don't have the answers to your questions, Brenna, but this is what I think. He probably is so angry he can't think straight. He's in a lot of pain so he wants to inflict pain on others. Going after children assures him he can succeed because they are the most vulnerable. People with his type of problems are usually cowards, and wouldn't target grown-ups for fear of retaliation. Funny thing though, most who commit these horrific crimes take their own lives afterwards."

Again Brenna lamented, "Who does that, Grammy?"

I wish I knew how to answer her mournful query, but I don't have a clue. The fact of the matter is anyone can become the shooter of innocent people. The variables that drive a person to act in such a terrible manner are countless. The ones that immediately come to mind are severe depression, being constantly bullied, being antisocial and a loner, seeking a thrill, being high on drugs, and the reasons go on and on. Yet there are those who plan and execute  murder without justification that are described as great folks who have never shown any of the signs I've enumerated, but have been described as pillars of the community, helpful to their neighbors, church people, volunteers in all sorts of needy programs, and just your everyday nice guys who wouldn't hurt a flea.

"I don't know who does that, Brenna. If they could be identified before committing their ugly deeds, many unneccesary and hurtful instances could and would be averted. Unfortunately at this time I can only pray that you and all children are never put in such a situation, yet if you are, thank God the schools are being proactive in reducing the number of casualties by conducting lockdown drills.

Being anxious actually is a good thing, it keeps you on your toes and ready to fight if you must, and take flight if you can!







Monday, August 24, 2015

MY BABA'S FAVORITE FRIDAY RECIPES

I know all of you have been awaiting this post for a while now, but summer has a way of taking me off course. A few weeks back my hubby and I enjoyed a hectic vacation at Pawley's Island, N.C. with our daughter, Kristy and her family. What a gorgeous place to kick back and build sand alligators, hop the waves, or in my case, get slapped around by them, swim in three different pools, eat at some of the finest bar and grills in the South, play Uno and lose three times, chase the youngest around the condo trying to get him to poop on the potty, and finally dropping onto the bed after 16 hrs. of complete madness for a well-earned rest, but instead being awaken at two in the morning by the pounding footsteps or noisy voices from the family above us. Truly a vacation to remember!


                                                                              
                                                             MY BABA'S FAVORITE FRIDAY RECIPES
                                               
                                             







Being Catholic in the Fifties meant 'what's for dinner?' was never in question, the answer was always FISH. Beer-Battered Cod was fast and easy. Baba scooped some flour into a bowl, added baking powder, paprika, salt and pepper. Next she’d beat an egg and pour a cup of pilsner beer into the mix. Once the consistency met her approval, Baba combined all the ingredients to form a creamy batter.After filling her cast iron skillet with lard, Baba turned on the burner and waited until the oil was hot enough. When Baba was certain the specific temperature was reached, she’d flick a few drops of water into the skillet. If the droplets skidded across the surface, she knew she could begin frying the fish. Baba dipped each piece into the batter, held it high to allow the excess to drip off, then carefully lowered it into the skillet. She always knew when to turn the fish over. Her internal clock had been set since she began cooking meals in her mother’s home. After all the pieces were done, she’d place them on a towel to drain, set them in a pan and put in the oven to keep warm until dinner.





Czech Pivo-Mlátil Treska
   (Beer-Battered Cod)



PLACKI
(potato pancakes)
            http://tinyurl.com/qz2vwhw         

Because potato pancakes were always in demand,Baba made  sure she grated enough potatoes  to have left-overs. She  then cracked  and  egg or two into a bowl and whisked  them with a fork. She’d add  flour to the eggs by the handful, and sprinkle in a pinch of salt and pepper. Although many recipes called for onions in this dish, my grandmother never included them in her pan-cakes. After stirring everything together, if the consis-tency was too watery, Baba continued to increase the flour  until she thought it looked right. That’s the way Baba cooked, by handfuls, pinches, and appearance.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
While the potato mixture rested, Baba covered the bottom of her electric fry pan with cooking oil and set it to the correct temperature. She’d then drop spoonfuls of batter into the hot grease. When bubbles began forming on the edges of each one, Baba turned them on the other side for just a minute or two. She’d then remove the pancakes, place them in a pan and pop them in the oven to keep warm.


                                                                

BUBLANINA
                                                                 (Bubbly Cake)       
                                                            http://tinyurl.com/n97gszp

Although any type of fruit could be used when making Bubbly Cake, my grandmother preferred using blueberries. She’d rinse them under the spigot, place the fruit in a bowl, and mix a little flour in with them.

Her next step was to combine the wet ingredients together. Baba poured milk into her mixing bowl and a bit of vegetable oil. Before adding the eggs, she needed to separate them. My grandmother’s technique in doing so was awesome. She’d take each egg, crack it on the edge of the bowl, and with one hand, open it, drain the egg whites, and drop the yolk into the milk and oil.  I’ve tried to replicate her method, but have never been able to master it.

In another bowl, Baba mixed the dry ingredients. She’d then add the milk mixture little by little and continue beating until a creamy batter was formed. Next Baba beat the egg whites until they formed stiff peaks and gently folded them in.  Baba greased a nine by eleven pan, poured the batter in, gently placed the fruit on top, set the oven on 375 and let it bake for thirty minutes. When cooled, she’d sprinkle it with powdered sugar.  So simple, a kid could do it!

                                                        

PLAYING HOOKY (When We Were Kids, Bk. 1) is the first chapter book of this series. I originally wrote it for tweens and teens. However, because it takes place in the Fifties, I soon discovered that the baby boomers, folks born 1941-1944, are just as enamored with the story as the kids. Playing Hooky takes people back to their own childhood, which makes them able to identify with Betty Lou and Danny Kolinski on so ma
ny levels.



       



 PLAYING HOOKY
 (When We Were Kids, BK.1)


When Frank Kolinski was fatally injured in the mill, Mary, his wife, and his two children were left to fend for themselves. Baba, Zedo, and Uncle Tom encircled the little family with their love and support. Living in Baba’s house, gave her daughter comfort and assistance in raising her children, and for Betty Lou and Danny, these three people became their pillars of strength and source of wisdom and understanding.       



hope you will try some of Baba’s favorite Friday recipes. As a family we looked forward to every meal because we knew how much love and caring went into the preparation. We were never served anything that came out of a box or can. With Zedo seated at the head, we respectfully gathered around Baba’s kitchen table to share blessings, food, and conversation. We cherished this time together and were excused only when our plates were emptied and our stomachs, full.
I also hope you get a chance to read Playing Hooky and the following three books in the series, Puppy Love, Pimples and Periods, and Promises. You won’t be disappointed, I promise.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

MY PRIDE AND JOY!

In 2012 at the ripe old age of 68 I gave birth. Miracle? Not really because instead of a boy or a girl, I presented the world with my first children's book. Since that June, I've written six more tales for ages 3-7, and four chapter books for tweens/teens. Eleven newborns in three years! I guess you could say I have a very fertile imagination!

I consider my works to be honest, factual, and funny. Every one of them is framed and mounted in our family room right up there with all the grandchildren.  Each has been a labor of love. It is my distinct pleasure to introduce you to my pride and joy:


GRAMMY'S GANG SERIES
Ages 3-7


1. NO WAY TO HAIRCUT DAY! 



A whimzical tale of a boy who can't understand why he must get his hair cut and puts up a fuss when in the barber's chair. However when the deed is finally done, when he catches a glimpse of himself in the mirror, he decides the monthly ritual isn't as bad as he once thought. A big red lollipop is another reward he can certainly appreciate!











2. DIRTY FACE LIAM  

    http://tinyurl.com/nvbejxf





A dirty kid is a happy kid! Liam loves to play in the mud, chew bubble gum, scribble with markers, and do all the things boys do that make their moms wish they were pretty, prissy girls! No matter how hard she tries, this mother cannot clean up her son's act!










3. CALLING ALL GRAMMIES  A Christmas Tale of Friendship 

    http://tinyurl.com/qgo5tcy






Santa is in big trouble now. His sleigh is busted and Christmas might have to be canceled this year. But after he makes a call to his dear friend, Grammy, her plan just might change everything. Grammy emails her pals from all over the world, and together they work hard to make all the children's dreams come true!









4. THERE'S A BABY IN MOMMY'S BELLY!  

     http://tinyurl.com/kjaflyx





How can a baby be in mommy's belly? How did it get there? Why is mommy getting so fat? What is jumping around inside mommy? Why is there a puddle of water under mommy? These are just a few of the questions her younger son wants answers to but nobody seems to be able to help, not dad, not big brother. Is there really a baby in mommy's belly? You'll have to read this hilarious tale and see!










5. SWEET, SWEET, SWEET BAREFEET! A JOYFUL RAP

   http://tinyurl.com/qbh3wwo




Two boys have been friends since birth. Ty-Ty is white and Thomas is black, but color never crosses their minds. The only thing these buddies want is to have fun in the sun, tease Thomas's sister, and enjoy mama's soup and sweet potato pie. They plan to be pals forever!











6. WHEN GRAMMY GOES AWAY

    http://tinyurl.com/op6ejcd








Grammy's grandson can't image life without her. Where would she go? How would she get there? What would she do there? Would she have her favorite things to eat? Would he ever hear her sweet voice again? Sadness and anger fill his soul until mom explains that Grammy will be with him, always and forever!






7. YO! BABY, GO! GO,BABY! 

http://tinyurl.com/ow9mlw5




The new baby in the family is a mover and a shaker! After tricking dad to think he was asleep, this bundle of energy rolls out of the house and into the world of fun and excitement. He rides a bike,plays basketball, and meets new friends. When trying to climb a giant try, baby finds himself waking up in his crib. Did he really do all those things or was he dreaming? What do you think?











WHEN WE WERE KIDS SERIES
Chapter books for tweens/teens


1.PLAYING HOOKY




In this story, readers are introduced to Betty Lou and Danny Kolinski for the first time. Growing up in the Fifties without their father, Frank is difficult for the sister and brother team. They attend parochial school, play hooky, and revel in their freedom until faced with a band of rock-throwing bullies. Danny is seriously injured, and although Betty Lou confronts his attackers, she is ridiculed and sent away without resolve. The girl must face the horrible truth that she alone is responsible for the harm that has come to her brother. While waiting for her mother and Danny to return from the emergency room, Betty Lou realizes that her anger towards the bullies is rooted in the rage she harbors because of her dad's death. She's mad at God, mad at the doctors for not saving him, mad at the world, but mostly mad at herself because somehow she believes she is responsible for his passing as well.








2. PUPPY LOVE


In the second book of the series, Danny experiences his first crush on Emily Salay, a classmate at St. Michael's Parochial School, who captured his heart during the summer of 1953. At the start of the school year though, Danny grows anxious when his buddies see him in Emily's company. How does he handle this dilemma? Not very well, to say the least.


Betty Lou is involved in puppy love for the first time, too. The nine-old isn't really sure she can handle the rollercoaster ride of emotions she and Bobby have embarked on. Only when her Baba tells Lou the story of Millie, her childhood pet, does Betty Lou finally understand the real meaning of this unsettling yet strangely wonderful experience.













3.PIMPLES AND PERIODS




Dealing with ugly zits, school bullies, and a three-day suspension leaves  Danny Kolinski sad and angry. His younger sister, Betty Lou, has her own problems. Most of her seventh grade friends are wearing bras, but she remains flat-chested. To compensate for her delayed development ,Lou takes unusual measures to make herself look and feel better. 

One day, while her daughter is standing in her underwear before the full-length mirror in their bedroom inspecting her body, Mary accidentally walks in.  Betty Lou flies into a rage, telling her mom she's totally mortified, and insists on privacy from now on. After allowing some time to pass, Mary sits beside her tween and explains what happens when girls and boys begin going through puberty. She not only discusses the physical changes, but emphasizes the emotional and social turmoil that both Lou and Danny will be experiencing over the next few years. Mother and daughter come to an understanding that during this difficult time in one's development, it is extremely important that they keep an open dialogue while taking this journey together.









 4. PROMISES



When Betty Lou Kolinski decides to attend high school away from home, her family adamantly objects. But ever since she learned to read, Lou's dream has been to become a famous author, and going to Vincentian Academy promise her the chance to achieve her goal.

Danny, now sixteen, meets a dark-haired beauty, and invites her out for a soda. To his surprise, Marion accepts and the teenager is walking on air. Though life promises good things ahead for him, Danny soon loses his job and is badly beaten by town bullies.

Some promises are meant to be kept, and some promises should never be made. Find out whether or not Betty Lou and Danny choose wisely where promises are concerned.









I would be terribly remiss not to acknowledge the midwives (illustrators) that contributed their amazing talents to the births of my eleven beautiful stories. Derek Bacon did the covers and interior pages for the first five children's books. When he could no longer work on my projects, Abira Das took over to lend her expertise to books six and seven. Elliott Beavan designed the covers of the first three chapter books, and again, Abira willingly accepted the job posting for PROMISES. These three illustrators are among the best in the business. I contracted them by going to the website, Upwork.com. If you're ever in need of professionals who illustrate, edit, format, or anything else related to publication, Upwork is the place to go!

As does any proud mother, I, too, love showing off my offsprings any time I get the opportunity in pictures and prose. After all, they truly are my pride and joy!