Baking childhood memories

224723_10150592067315463_3371578_nChildhood happy remembrances for me revolve around my mother baking.  She loved to bake.  Her specialty was pie.  All shapes, sizes, and flavors of pies.  She always wanted help when making pies because she needed us to peel apples or do the cleanup work.  But the aromas from the oven right around Thanksgiving were just heavenly.

We lived in a really old farm house.  We had a gas oven where the automatic pilot light didn’t always light.  Therefore you had to use the old stick matches to wave over the opening, or stick it in the hole, to get the oven to light.  I singed all my red hair a time or two.  That’s a smell you never forget.

Mom wrote the recipe down and I’ve kept it all these years.  But, I could never get it right.  I’m not very proud of this, but making pie dough is not my strong suit.  In fact, I haven’t made her pie dough recipe in well over thirty years.  In my mind, when you have Pillsbury, why bother?

As a fan of Food Network, and more importantly Ina Garten and Ree Drummond, I feel as though I’m actually being shamed into giving the pie dough a try again.  It’s as if they’re saying any dummy can make pie dough.  Well, not so much.

I researched making pie dough.  Just watching the show hosts make the dough, and you know it just magically appears, it seems to me that they are just too nonchalant about the entire process.  Reading over my mothers recipe, then watching and reading my foodie Bff’s recipes, plus my sister asking me to make dessert, well obviously any dummy can make pie dough, I just had to give it a go.

Now, I did watch the science of flaky pie dough which in all sincerity resembled my mother’s recipe by a lot, with one exception, vodka.  I used 2 Tablespoons of plain vinegar instead.  I think it’ll have the same effect – pure flakiness.  You should watch it too.  The science of it makes perfect sense.

2015 Pie dough 1

Mom’s Pie Crust                                                Makes 3 pies

  • 4 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 pound of lard, or 2 cups of Crisco (I used 1 cup butter, 1 cup Crisco)
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2 T. plain vinegar2015 pie dough 2

Crumble and mix the first three ingredients.  The mixture should look like small peas.  You can use your hand, like my mother always did, or stop in at Aldi and pick up a pastry blender for $3.99.  The pastry blender did really well.

In a 1 cup measure, add the 2 T of vinegar.  Add the egg and whisk.  Then add enough water to make 2/3 c liquid.  Blend.

Add this to your flour mixture and use your hands to get it to dough formation.

Place the dough between two sheets of wax paper then place in a plastic bag.  It needs to be REALLY cold when you go to roll it out.

But we’ll write about that one tomorrow.

The Trials of a Patient Seller

We’ve had our home on the market for a bit.  There’s been 37 families through and they ALL LIKE IT.    What?

After discussions with our realtor we’ve decided to take it off the market, make a few updates, and then put it back on.

Some of the changes were in three of our bathrooms.  In all three we painted the vanities, doors and trim, but in the Master we also changed the paint on the walls.  Yowser!  What a difference.  We had it professionally done by Nick Giamberduca and his swat team, and they look spectacular.

How did I find Nick?  I was at Home Depot quizzing the paint guy and Nick overheard me.  His wife and I go to the same gym.  He stopped me to say he was my friends husband and let me know that he did this kind of work to older cabinets.  After discussions with the hubs, we engaged Nick to complete the job.  He also painted all of our doors and some trim work in the house.

The real goal is to appeal to a younger buyer.  In a few weeks we’ll put it back on after we do a few more things.  In the meantime we’ll keep looking for a place to land.


Powder room before.                                                Powder room after.

2015 powder rm before2015 Powder rm after










Guest Bath before.                                        Guest Bath after.

2015 Guest before2015 Guest after









Master Bath before.                                   Master Bath after.

2015 Master before2015 Master after

Seeing them on the other side.

2015 Bolz weddingJust take me back to them growing up.  All the fun the kids had, all the games we attended, all the pasta parties, the planning of school events, the volunteering at summer school, the send offs to college, the graduations, the jobs, the life that happens in front of our eyes leads us to joy on the other side of childhood when one of your son’s friends marries his sweetheart.  It’s a moment.   A memorable moment that we keep close to that mother library we have in our hearts.

I usually take a lot of photos at the wedding but the people in the pews ahead of me were really tall. Everything moved quickly, as weddings do, and before you knew it, it was time for the reception.  No tall people in front of me there.  The venue was beautiful.  It was on the Marion property in Aurora.  The food and the service were OUTSTANDING!

The kids had an Instagram hashtag which was a lot of fun to post to.  My son quipped that, “…several of the bridal party were following mom on Instagram.”  That’s ok.  They’ll soon not do so.

My husband and I enjoyed catching up with their jobs or additional schooling they’ve decided to embark upon.  They’re all doing well on the other side.

Loyalty haircuts

DonandTonyTwenty-two years ago we moved to 1627.  I couldn’t find a barber that I liked for my son and husband so we kept going back to Don’s in Lake Zurich.  (Tony’s first hair cut to the left.)  At our last visit, we found out Don had passed away.  This was devastating to my son.  We let it settle in then began to search for a barber.Dudes

Sal and Tony finally settled with Joe’s barber shop in Crystal Lake and have been going together for 21 and a half years.  The boys have a “hair cut interval” standing appointment on their calendars.  There were times where they couldn’t make the interval and they would have to go, (cough), elsewhere. We call it “cheating”.

Tony’s grown up at Joe’s, they know when he went to the Presidential Classroom – hair cut required, prom, graduation from High School – hair cut required, entrance into Law School, becoming an attorney, ….  All hair cuts required.

For my son there’s a loyalty pang that tugs at him, but as his hair grows he knows there’s a time crunch and this time there will have to be an exception.  I think in all the years Sal and Tony have been visiting the barber, they’ve missed three times.  This weekend everyone ran out of time.   While Sal made it to Joe’s, my son could not, but he did find a place near him to get a hair cut for the wedding he’ll be standing up in this weekend.  We can hardly wait to attend the union of Lauren and Michael.  Michael and Tony have known each other since Junior High.

It’s the little things that keep you loyal to your barber.

The Bartman Farm

  I had the privelidge to tour the Bartman Farm today, unexpectedly.  I’ve known John Bartman for about 15 years. I met him when he was a young man working to grow the Democratic Party in McHenry County.  We’ve remained friends since then.  

  On John’s FB page he let his friends know the sweet corn crop was available.  I was already in Huntley this morning and thought why not head out to Marengo. Well there he was and he invited me to take a tour of the farm in his suped up John Deere that looks unbelieveably like a small range rover.
  John’s farm has been in his family for 40 years.  They own, rent, and work 700 acres.  Holy smokes!  I had no idea.    He showed me all the crops they plant, field corn (GMO and non-GMO), winter wheat, soy beans, and sweet corn.  He showed me a plat where there was an Algonquin connection.  It was sludge that was turned into fertilizer to spread on his fields.  Reduce, reuse, recycle at it’s best.

Before I left with my car back seat filled with sweet corn, I met John’s mom, dad and aunt.  It’s a family thing.

I spent my teenage years in Yorkville when it was a farming community.  Farming has changed significantly for the better.   John and I discussed how schools should develop a program to help students understand the farming business.  It is a business that is taken for granted.  Farmers feed the world.  Crops and livestock contribute to the Gross Domestic Product – yes they do if you recall your economics class.  We need to develop among our students, at an early age, an understanding of farming and the significance to our future.   I’ve always supported schools to have a garden plot that provides a hands-on experience in planting, nuturing and reaping the rewards of gardening.  

  Anyway, the end result of my trip was to pick up sweet corn.  IT WAS DELICIOUS!!!!!!!!!!!  Bicolor corn for dinner and it was perfect.  Thanks John for all you do.  It was a fantastic reminder of the hard work that goes into your profession.

It’s that time…Garage/Downsizing Sale

2015 Garage Sale

Yep, it’s time.  There’s a lot of stuff.  A lot of barware, accessories, bedding, towels, plastic drawers to hold bedding or sweaters – we used them at college for Chrissy, two sewing machines (Necchi & Singer) that probably need a tune up, and one sewing machine cabinet PLUS so much more.   My neighbor is also having a garage sale, or declutter as she’d like to say, and she has children s things.

My sister is the BEST at having a garage sale and she’ll be here to show us all how to do this.  She took the photos BTW.

There’s a recumbant bike also for sale.  I forgot to take that photo.  It was my son’s.

I forgot, there’s LOTS of children’s VHS videos.  I know but someone may like them.  There’s also a game cube?  Not sure about that but it’s in there too.  A 12 year old movie camera that looks like new.  We used it to take movies of Jacobs football games.

Some gardening tools, other tools we don’t need.  Or just stop by for lemonade.  We’d love to see you.

It’s Founders weekend so this seemed to be the best weekend while folks are all out.  Looking forward to seeing you.





The Light is Brighter Now because of Janine.

Dr. Janine SteffanThere are few people that come along in your life that really make a difference.  Dr. Janine Steffan was one of those people.  I met Janine offhandedly in the small conference room at Perry Elementary where she was working with another post grad student on their doctorate in education.  Later on we became fast literacy buddies when we both served on the District 300 Literacy Committee which was dedicated to helping struggling students to become passionate about reading, especially at the middle school level.rose-book-flower-backgrounds-book-rose-25275

The committee worked tirelessly to come up with ideas for reading.  She, and others, reached out to educators and special reading groups of educators to find, 1. best practices, 2. ideas, and 3. once we came up the the idea and money would you support it.  She was a genius when it came to helping youngsters read.

Janine’s recent research was in the field of adolescent reading and performance assessment.  Her skills in performance assessment were spot on especially when we finished a program for students to determine if it was helpful and provided success for them in reading.

Janine was so kind, so thoughtful, so centered in best practices for students – it made my heart have hope for struggling students.  We would come up with ideas in how we could raise money just for literacy.  One of our favorite ideas was to have a tea party with a well-known author.   The committee had a few great ideas.

The countless hours that were spent off the clock on the Literacy Committee showed how much she really cared for student success.  She touched so many students.  One of the programs we worked on brought an internationally renowned author in to talk to students about her books and her art.  That author helped to turn a student’s academics career around.   Janine wanted us to showcase the student in our Gala so that our donors knew we were reaching students.  She knew what worked for struggling students and wanted to celebrate it all the time.

There are so many of us today where our souls are sad today.  She touched so many lives and cared deeply for students.  Janine will be a joyful light to be remembered.

Many thanks to Helen Lawrence for the photo.


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