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Don’t Throw Away Memories

27 Aug

Last month when I was packing some personal things from my old office/job, to my delight I found in a desk drawer this very sweet and touching poem Ian had written for me when he was about 10 years old. Now that he’s 20, Ian may be very embarrassed to see it, but I will treasure it always and am so excited that I found it. 

I tend to be a bit of a hoarder as far as all four of my nieces and nephews are concerned. I keep informal scrapbooks/envelopes of things from our trips, lots of pictures, programs from their piano, dance and music recitals, and so much more.  They all have written me letters, notes, jokes, secrets and more. But this was my only poem. Reading it makes me very happy.

If ever there was an aunt,
who is as great as you.
I could never imagine,
all the things she’d do.

She’d take me to Florida,
California and New York.
And at the cinema movies,
she’d see Frodo & an Orc.

So I really guess
that what I’m trying to say,
is that you’re the best aunt ever
of the future, past or today.

-Ian
XOXOXO
      ♥

Here's the actual poem - Ian wrote it on some stationary he found in my desk drawer.

 
 
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“Don’t” Show Incriminating Pictures!

3 Apr

Elyse and Ian prior to the formal dinner evening - he's such a great big brother!

Three years ago about this time of year it had been another cold, long winter, and my sister and I were anxious to go somewhere warm.  Long story short, we decided at the last-minute to go on a cruise, so we got the ball rolling and in addition to my sister and myself, my Mom, my brother Tim, my sister-in-law Joanie as well as Ian and Elyse, we all went for a seven-day trip on Royal Caribbean’s Enchantment of the Seas. Spring break for schools was a little late that year.

My other sister-in-law Lucy, is a cruise agent extraordinaire with Ship-A-Hoy, and does a wonderful job of booking great staterooms, knows all the scoop on the excursions and ports of call,  and is awesome at handling all the in’s and out’s of cruising.  She’s our favorite cruise agent of course and we’ve been on many! She was able to find us a great cruise at the last-minute to the ports we wanted to go with some good amenities for teens.  Ian and Elyse had a blast (they were seventeen and thirteen then).  

Our ship, "Enchantment of the Seas" in port at Key West.

We left from Fort Lauderdale and sailed to Cozumel, Belize and Key West with a couple of days at sea in between before arriving back in Fort Lauderdale.  I won’t go into detail about the cruise, but want to share a specific event that involved Ian, and demonstrates what a good sport he is, and how easy-going and mature he can be, despite the fact that he was totally humiliated (so he says now!).   

Tim, Joanie and I decided to check out Royal Caribbean’s notorious “Quest” game that was scheduled one night, as we had heard chatter that it would be hilarious.  Mom and Deb didn’t want to go, so they kept an eye on Elyse, and finding out that we needed four people to play, we grabbed Ian, even though he was less than 18 years old and it was noted for “mature” audiences.

Elyse and Ian in tropical attire!

We didn’t know what to expect and it started as sort of a combination scavenger hunt with “Let’s Make a Deal” (where you won something if you had it in your purse or pocket) and you were among the fastest to get it to the emcee, with the chance of winning a cheesy Royal Caribbean trinket.  You had to appoint one guy on your team as your runner, and we elected Ian to do it. 

The game got progressively funnier and more challenging for the male runners and audience alike.  It started with innocuous things you’d find in a purse, but quickly took a raucous and embarrassing turn for the assigned runners, poor Ian.  First the team had to find a tube of lipstick (both Joanie and I had some), then Ian had to put some on and run to the emcee.  Ian then had to find a pair of earrings, put those on and race to the front.  Joanie and I both have pierced ears, but I had on a pair of grey pearl leverbacks, that he was able to put and keep on. 

Each task got a little more complicated – the guys had to take off their shoes (and socks for some), then put on a pair of high heels and once again, run to the front.  Seeing these men with lipstick and earrings on, running in high heels was a side-splitting sight!  Again, Ian was having fun, and wasn’t too self-conscious since men of all ages were doing this.  He just happened to be the youngest! 

Ian is somewhere in that crowd, I have close-up pictures, but promised him I'd never share!

But then the emcee announced that one of the women in the team had to figure out a way to take her bra off, without taking her shirt or dress off, then the team runner had to take his shirt off and put on the bra.  Then the runner had to find a purse and run to the front to get a number from the emcee (while still in heels, with earrings and lipstick on).  Once all the guys had a number, the emcee had them do a conga line dance around the room.  The best “dancers” were chosen and announced by number by the cruise staff.

I was laughing so hard I was crying and couldn’t catch my breath watching Joanie rapidly slip off her bra from under her dress and pulling it out of an open armpit.  My brother was laughing so hard as well.  Joanie and I quickly put her bra on Ian, snapping the back in place.  I gave Ian my purse to carry, and once ready, he flew over the chairs/section we were sitting in to go grab his number.  The music started and the guys all danced in a line, holding onto the hips of the guy in front, with the emcee leading the conga line.  Then each guy had to do a 10-15 second solo dance.  It was hilarious. 

All along I was taking pictures of course!  I’ve shared just one here of when all these macho guys rushed in their heels, bras, earrings with purses in hand to get their numbers.  But I also have several of Ian close-up which I “triple” promised him I would never show to anyone outside of the family.  Well I’m keeping my promise (at this time), but have kidded with him that I might pull them out for when he gets married one day.

Hmmm, someone should have color-coordinated this group! Doing the "Macarena" in the dining room one night, LtoR, my brother Tim, my sister Debbie, my nephew Ian and my sister-in-law Joanie.

I’ve heard that on some of the other Royal Caribbean cruises, the guys have to strip down to their skivvies while wearing the bra, heels, purse, earrings, lipstick and dancing the conga.  You’ll find evidence of this on YouTube.  Ian had on a pair of cargo shorts, but he and all the other guys on our cruise kept their pants on!

We caught up with my Mom, my sister and Elyse later, still laughing, showing them the pictures.  Ian lamented to his Grandma, “I’ve never been so humiliated in my life!”  Please don’t tell anyone about this! (He was a senior in high school after all.)  But he still laughs about it today, was such a good sport about it and had as much fun as anyone.

The game also set the tone for the rest of the cruise, where we continued to have a great time – and we continued to enter as either a family team or as solo entrants in the ship’s other contests, from “Name That Tune” (2nd place!) to karaoke.  But nothing was as funny as seeing Joanie slip her bra off through her armpit and then to see Ian put it on and strut around doing the conga in high heels. 

As adults one of the clearest and most positive memories we have of our childhood are of family vacations.  Hopefully this will be one to remember for Ian.  And if he forgets, I have pictures!

“Don’t” Bargain Roger Rabbit for Sushi

6 Oct

In 1988 two movies were released that I will always associate fondly with my nephew Nick.  He was five at the time, and we had been taking him and his sister Katie, 17 months  younger, to the show for about a year or so and he loved going to the movies (primarily Disney films)!    

The first 1988 movie was “Beetlejuice” which he really liked and ended up going twice to see it.  It was funny and entertaining, and despite being about dead people and ghosts,  Nick was quite enamored with this movie.  For Christmas that year, we gave him several Beetlejuice toys – there are still a few in a box in my basement to this day.  I just don’t have the heart to throw them out.    

The second one was “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”   It was pretty radical at the time as it combined live actors with animated characters.  It’s about this toon hating detective named Eddie Valiant (played by Bob Hoskins) who ends up being a cartoon rabbit’s only hope to prove his innocence when he is accused of murder.  You see Roger Rabbit had suspected his wife Jessica, had been two-timing (playing patty cakes) on him, so he had hired Eddie to snoop around to see if it was true.  But then the owner of Toon Town (Marvin Acme played by Stubby Kaye) ends up dead, and Roger Rabbit is accused of the murder since Marvin Acme was the man playing patty cakes with Jessica.    

It had many plot twists, colorful characters, memorable lines (Jessica Rabbit: “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way…”) and more.  The movie won four Oscars and had been nominated for seven, and it was visually stunning to watch all the special effects – at the time, they were truly amazing.    

So imagine how much a five-year-old boy with a big imagination would enjoy the movie.  And enjoy it Nick did.  Over, and over, and over again.  In fact, in the span of eight months, he saw that movie six times!  I saw it with him three of those times.  I believe my poor Mother saw it with him on five occasions.      

One of the last times I saw it with him was in 1989 right after the Academy Awards, and it had moved to the dollar theatres.  Nick was insistent on going again, and got quite stubborn about not wanting to see anything else.  So I bargained with him.  He was somewhat of a picky eater at the time and wouldn’t try anything too different, so the places I could take them out to eat were somewhat limited at that age (that would change in another year or two!).  So I said, if you go to the Japanese restaurant with us so I could have Sushi, we would go see Roger Rabbitt one more time.   

He readily, yet reluctantly agreed.  We went to our favorite Japanese neighborhood restaurant and thought that the kids would get a kick out of sitting in the private room with the traditional low-style Japanese table and seating mats.    It was about six o’clock and my Mom and I decided to take Nick and Katie to the eight o’clock show on a Saturday night since the kids would be spending the night.  So we had enough time to eat and get to the show a couple of blocks away.    

Once in the restaurant, the Japanese hostess escorted us to a private dining area, and motioned for us to take off our shoes.  Mom, Katie and I slipped out of ours readily but as I was moving to sit down in the low table, Nick was still standing, with his arms crossed tightly around him, and a big (but cute) pout on his face.  He didn’t want to take off his shoes – he wouldn’t take off his shoes.    

I tried to coax him gently, but he refused; my Mom tried to reason with him and he crossed his arms even tighter around him and backed up.  “I don’t want to do that, you’re not supposed to take your shoes off in a restaurant, it’s not proper manners, and I’m not going to eat here either” he said politely.

   

The Japanese hostess tried to tell him that it was alright to take off his shoes, but he just got more bull-headed.  He wasn’t about to take his shoes off.  Unfortunately there were no regular tables and chairs available as the restaurant was very crowded.  So we asked for a chair that he could sit down in, and we sat him in it just inside the corner of our private  room.  Mom told Nick to sit there that we were going to eat at this restaurant, that was the bargain he made with us for being able to see Roger Rabbit one more time.  So Mom, Katie and I all sat in the low table (shoes off) and had Sushi, Tempura and we ordered Yakitori, thinking the kids would like the grilled skewered chicken.  Nick sat quietly in his chair (shoes on) watching us eat (but never unfolding his arms).    

“This chicken is really good Nick, don’t you want a bite?” I asked.    

“No thank you,” he said ever the polite, but stubborn boy.  “I’m not hungry.”   

Grandma said sweetly, “don’t you want to come sit down by us?  You can leave your shoes on.”   

“That’s okay Grandma, I’ll just wait , I’m fine, I’ll just sit right here.”   

The Japanese restaurant was very dark and mysterious to Nick

We hurried through our meal and left the restaurant.  Nick happily jumped in the car, once again excited about seeing the movie.  While we thought this was a lesson about respecting other people’s preferences, he saw it as an exercise in exhibiting polite patience while avoiding something he didn’t want to do.  He wasn’t throwing a tantrum or anything, as this wasn’t Nick’s style as he was always, always very well-mannered, polite and sweet.     

So we went off to see “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” one last time on the big screen (it would be released later that year on video).  As we were driving to the theater about a half a block ahead the Golden Arches were within sight.  “I’m hungry,” Nick said.  “Can I please have a Happy Meal?” 

Well we couldn’t let him not have any dinner (I had planned on getting him something at the show), so we drove thru and picked up a Happy Meal and small soda and he ate it in the parking lot of the show.  As we were walking into the theater he hugged both Mom (Grandma) and me, and said “thank you so much for taking me to see Roger Rabbit one more time, it’s the best movie ever!”   

And he then said, “by the way, I’m glad you got to eat your Sushi, but that was a really strange place, I don’t ever want to go there again, it was spooky!”   

The truth came out – he had been frightened to sit down in the “pit table” as he had called it.  It was very dark in that Japanese restaurant, and he didn’t know what was “down there” under the table.  And since he didn’t know, he didn’t want to put his feet “down there” without shoes on.   He wasn’t afraid of the ghosts, dead people and the eerie stuff in “Beetlejuice,” nor was he afraid of the murder, mayhem and evil antics from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.”  But unknown food, in a dark place, with unusual seating arrangements, with a lady in a kimono asking for his shoes, all that was a little too dark and mysterious for Nick’s 5-year-old imagination!

“Don’t” (Ever, Ever!) Buy Them A Live Animal!

11 Sep

When Katie was about 8 and Nick 9, we had been in a small neighborhood shopping center (Corinth Square) in Prairie Village, KS having a late lunch.  It was a beautiful Spring day, and both kids were so happy – we had been giggling and listening to Nick’s jokes and stories and as we were walking to the car, we walked by a pet store (it’s no longer there, replaced now by www.thelandofpaws.com, a stylish-type pet boutique!).     

"How much is that kitty in the window?"

 

The kids quickly went to the window to look in, and pleaded, “can we please go in and look at the puppies and kitties?” (Which were in plain view from the window of course).  What’s an aunt to do?    

We are sort of a family of cats.  I’ve always loved them since I was little and we’d go to my Uncle Mac’s farm in Eskridge, KS for Thanksgiving.  He would tell me that I could have all the kittens I could catch in the barn, but of course they were wild, and if and when I would get my hands on one, it would squirm and hiss at me and start scratching, so I’d have to drop it real fast, but I always tried every year.    

We always had at least one cat growing up – with the exception of the years we had an adorable Peke-A-Poo named Luigi Cappuccino (He was black, tan, with white markings as frothy as a fresh steamed cappuccino.)  He also understood commands in Italian (I had just come home from living in Italy when Mom and my little brother gave him to me for my birthday).  But I digress.    

My other brother (Nick and Katie’s dad) always had a cat, usually one that he would find, he’d feed it, and it would stay around.  And my sister-in-law also liked cats, and she had grown up with them as well.  So Nick and Katie had two cute cats in their household, one named D.C. (from the movie “That Darn Cat”) and another named Bandit.     

And at the time, my beloved cat Ashley was alive and well.  However, when Nick and Katie came over, he would give them disdainful glares, and was especially contemptuous when my sister-in-law would drop them off.  He was basically a one-person cat, despite Katie and Nick petting him and trying to pick him up.  He came to KC with me from Chicago, and lived for 23 years!     

I also had an outdoor cat named Watson, who I named after the golfer Tom Watson, as he was found on my brother’s golf-course (he’s the Master PGA Club Pro at Sunflower Hills).  My sister-in-law rescued Watson along with his three tabby sisters.  I took them home to my house and found homes for the three little tabby cats (who I named Birdie, Bogey and Putt-Putt) and decided to keep the all-gray cat as company for Ashley, but I could never get Watson to stay inside.  He would come and go a couple of days at a time.    

Maggie curls up in a little ball to sleep

 

Many years later, Maggie, who is the daughter of Ian and Elyse’s cat Sadie, joined my household after Watson had departed.  She overlapped with Ashley by a year before he died.  So Maggie took over the chore of being disdainful and contemptuous to the nieces and nephews.  (Oh by the way, you can follow Maggie on Twitter at http://twitter.com/TheCatMaggie)     

So we had lots of cats around, plenty of cats!  Many cats!  But as soon as Katie saw all the cute kittens, one in particular gravitated towards her.  It was a little yellow striped cat, who was all furry and sweet, and just adorable.  “Please Aunt Sheree, can we get this kitty?  Mom said I could have a kitty, ’cause I want one that will be all my own.”     

“Are you sure your Mom wants another cat?” I said, “You already have D.C. and Bandit, you don’t need another cat.”    

“But it needs us, it needs me, and Mom will just love this cat, she really, really does want another cat.  She’ll be soooo happy to have this cat.  We’ve talked about it.”  Katie was just emphatic that my sister-in-law would want a third cat.    

“Nick, what do you think?” I naïvely asked my 9-year old nephew for his blessing in purchasing something that I knew probably wasn’t going to be received well by my brother and sister-in-law.       

“Well Mom loves cats, and why wouldn’t she love this one,” he replied, giving me the green light to go over the edge with the decision.     

I guess I could have called my sister-in-law, but at the time (1993) it was before the broad spread use of cell phones, and I had a feeling she would have said no on the phone.  In my mind I rationalized if she got upset, I would just keep the cat at my house for Katie.     

We never did get a picture of "Sunny," but she looked identical to this kitten.

 

So despite the nervous knot in my stomach, I nodded yes to the sales clerk and received the biggest hug of my life at the time from my adorable little niece.  “I’m going to call him ‘Sunny’ because he looks all yellow and orange, bright and happy like sunshine,” Katie said.    

In addition to purchasing Sunny, we also bought Sunny a bed, matching food and water bowls, a collar and a few toys.  I also bought a new litter box and some litter, as I didn’t want my sister-in-law to not be ready for it when she picked up the kids later.  How thoughtful of me!!    

We went back to my house and the kids fed Sunny and then played with him for several hours.  Ashley gave me a panicked look, like why was I  bringing another cat into the house, and quickly scampered upstairs.     

Finally the door bell rang.  My sister-in-law came in and before I could say a word, Katie said with delight, “Mom, look at what Aunt Sheree got me, I’ve named him Sunny, and I’m going to take care of him and love him for the rest of my life.”    

Oops!  Wrong decision!  The blood drained from my sister-in-law’s face.  “Is that so?” she said. “We already have two cats Katie, we really don’t need a third one.”    

“But you said I could have my very own cat.”  Katie replied.    

My sister-in-law countered, “I said we’d talk about it and would do that one day.”     

I stepped in and said, “I’m sorry, the kids said you were looking to get another cat, and he was so sweet, we have everything ready for him – a bed, a box… if you don’t want him, I’ll keep him here for Katie.”    

Katie said, “Oh no, I want him to live with me.”    

Noonan

 

My sister-in-law was such a good Mother at that moment (as she always is) and was such a good sport.  I knew she was mad at me, but she didn’t say a word.  But if looks could kill!  I had put her in a tough place – if she said no to Katie, then she would be the bad guy and cause her daughter heartbreak.    

“Okay,” she sighed, “but Katie, this will be your cat, and you have to take care of it.”    

Sunny went home and Katie enjoyed about a week’s time with him before he accidentally got out and ran off.  They searched for him for days, and my sister-in-law dutifully wiped Katie’s tears and my niece eventually got over her first loss of a pet.    

Lacey

 

I truly felt bad about buying the kitten.  I had crossed the invisible line of what’s acceptable for an aunt to do/buy versus a parent.  I vowed to myself to never do that again.  I vowed to at least have a conversation with their parents on something as significant as purchasing a live animal!     

Katie of course survived her heartbreak.  Now married, she and her husband Randy have two fun cats, Noonan and Lacey.  My brother and sister-in-law still have two cats, now Jake and Sassy (as D.C. and Bandit passed away).  I still have Maggie of course, who right now is giving me a scornful look – as she’s thinking it’s her turn to be blogging, and wants to post a Tweet.    

Maggie likes to be near the laptop, wherever it is, and she has a Twitter following of 850+!

“Don’t” Forget to Teach Them the Fine Art of Dining!

22 Aug

Nick eagerly eyes the ham on his plate (Katie is behind him).

 

Nick loves to dine.  Primarily he loves to dine out.  Now that he’s an adult, I love it that we can go out for a leisurely dinner or late lunch on a Saturday together and have cocktails, appetizers, dinner, wine and dessert.  It’s not necessarily that he loves to eat, he simply loves the art of dining.  He likes to chat with the maître d’, converse with the waiters, hear about the specials and engage in discussions about work, school, friends, family, travel or whatever.   

Nick also loves “to dine” during holidays.  On Thanksgiving, he always looks forward to coming over and smelling the aroma in the house, taking a look in the oven at the beautiful browned turkey or the clove-pricked ham, taking a bite of the water chestnut dressing, eyeing the plethora of pies and desserts while putting a finger in the fresh whipped cream.   

He likes to try new restaurants and while there are certain foods Nick doesn’t like (pork chops), he’s fairly adventurous about trying new foods.  I’d like to think that this comes from when he and Katie would spend Saturdays with us.  We would make the day an adventure and if we didn’t have anything particular in mind, my Mom and I would take Nick and Katie out to lunch.  Sometimes my sister would go as well depending on our planned dining destination.  And unlike most kids their age at the time, we wouldn’t go to McDonald’s or Applebee’s, as Nick and Katie’s palettes were far more refined, at least when they were with me.   

Nick loved food, dining and eating so much, my brother Tim gave him a chef's hat for Christmas one year.

 

One Saturday when he was about 9, my sister-in-law dropped them both off, and we made plans to head to the Plaza.  It was a crisp October day, and Mom and I were hungry for the Bookbinder Soup at Harry Starker’s.  It was one of their featured items, a classic soup with steamed fish in a rich sherry broth, served with homemade crisp sourdough bread.  (The original Harry Starker’s is no longer around, but it evolved to Starker’s Restaurant on top of Restoration Hardware at the corner of 47th and Wyandotte and they still serve this classic soup.)     

We sat down in one of the booths, and after the waiter brought over the water and bread, he went over the specials.  Nick asked him what was the “Soup du Jour.”  The waiter was taken aback for a moment, smiled and proceeded to share with Nick that the Soup du Jour was a Steak Soup, and of course, they always were serving the Bookbinder Soup.  Mom and I were surprised as well as we didn’t know he even knew the expression “Soup du Jour” – guess our Saturday dining experiences were starting to take hold.   

But that was just our first surprise.  After the waiter left to get the soups, Nick took out a little pocket-size spiral notebook.  On the cover, in a purple crayon marker he had written “Nick’s Restaurant Reviews.”   He told us he had decided that from now on when he eats out with us, he was going to do a review.  He had decided that by doing a review he would remember which restaurants he liked the best, plus it would just be fun and it would keep waiters or waitresses on “their toes” giving us the best service.    

He had made a rough spreadsheet (by the way, he’s now an accountant!) with restaurant names as columns, and twelve criteria listed as rows.  The criteria included 1) food looks, 2) menu look, 3) food taste, 4) type of food available, 5) waiter attitude, 6) soups 7) appetizers, 8) desserts, 9) comfortable chairs, 10) kids’ menu option, 11) looks/decorations (his version of ambience) and 12)condiments?!  Then there was a 13th row that said “bonus points.”  He planned on giving each criteria a score of 1 through 5, with 5 being the best.  He said he would give bonus points if something was truly awesome.   

As we waited for our soup, we all got into the spirit of Nick’s review and offered a few initial opinions of Harry Starker’s as he wrote their name into the first column of his notebook.  As the soup arrived Mom ordered trout, I had a Caesar salad with chicken, Katie had chicken fingers and Nick ordered a hamburger and fries.  We had to try the desserts, and while I don’t remember what I had, I know that Nick ordered Tiramisu.  He always ordered that or something chocolate like a torte, cake or brownie sundae.    

Lunch at Fedoras

Nick (about 11 years), my Mom, Katie (about 10 years) and Ian (3-4 years) at Fedora's for one of our Saturday lunches.

 

Harry Starker’s received 50 out of 60 points and did very well in Nick’s first review!  Several categories received a “5” including soups, desserts, waiter service, waiter attitude (to Nick there was a difference!) and condiments (he liked that the ketchup was served in a little white bowl).  He also rewarded them a few bonus points for the Tiramisu.    

That year and a year or two after that Nick loaded his little book up with reviews of other restaurants where we would go and have Saturday lunch.  At the time, they typically included restaurants on the Plaza, in Brookside or Crown Center  (about 1992-93).  We went everyplace from Annie’s Santa Fe (now closed) to Fred P. Ott’s; from Winstead’s to Fedora’s (also now closed, but it was a favorite!); from Houlihan’s to the Classic Cup.  We would also venture out and go to places he wanted to try like “V’s” Italian Restaurant  where he would order their really yummy French Fries with spaghetti and meatballs.  They also had a Tiramisu that he loved.  He had seen an ad for it claiming the best Italian food and that it was right next to “Cool Crest” a fun miniature golf course that we went to after lunch.    

Another favorite was Jasper’s Trattoria or the Marco Polo Market on Wornall (before they moved to their current location).  We’d get sausage sandwiches or pasta, and then of course the Tiramisu for Nick!  They always got 5 points in every category in Nick’s  book.  Jasper’s was also a dinner destination for us on the nights we would take the kids to Starlight Theatre and it still is.  JJ serves such wonderful food, the atmosphere is great and it is a family all-time favorite, including Nick, to this day.    

Trezo Vino Lunch

My Mom and Nick, after one of our recent Saturday lunches, in front of Trezo Vino in Park Place (in Leawood)

 

While Nick’s restaurant review notebook has long disappeared, the memories have not, and Nick, Mom and I still try to go to lunch on Saturdays a couple of times a year.  And sometimes Nick and I meet for lunch during the week, usually at Lidia’s (yes another Italian restaurant with a fantastic Tiramisu!) where we order the pasta tasting trio or the Frico.  The Frico is a specialty of the Friuli region of Italy – it is an envelope of golden-brown, crisp Montasio cheese with potato, leek and the filling of your choice – typically either crab, shrimp or sausage are the options available.     

Some of my favorite dining experiences have been with Nick – no matter his age, 10 or 25.  He has impeccable manners, we have wonderful conversations and we have great food at special places.  I’ll always fondly remember the time we went to Starker’s when he brought his review book and ordered the Soup du Jour.  But I especially enjoy the times we have lunch or dinner now, as eating with Nick is not just about dining, but about the time we spend together.

“Don’t” Hunt for Eggs in the Rain

9 Aug

Powell Gardens has always been a destination for something fun to do with the nephews and the nieces.  It’s Kansas City’s botanical garden, and is set on more than 900 acres of lush, rolling hills.  It was established in 1983, and my Mother and I started going there a couple of years after that, always with one or more of the four kids with us.   

The egg hunt was held along a trail in the woods at Powell Gardens

 

About a 45-minute drive from Kansas City, we would get in the car and drive out there and make a Saturday of it, doing everything from just walking through the gardens to attending special exhibits, from taking water color painting classes, to going to the annual butterfly festival (which deserves its own story in the weeks ahead!).  The kids especially loved the days we’d go for walks, have lunch in the café (or sometimes we would take a picnic) and then do arts and crafts like painting clay pots.  

In 1991 we decided to take Nick, Katie and Ian to Powell Gardens’ annual egg hunt the Saturday before Easter.  At the time they were age 7, 6, and 2 (Elyse hadn’t been born yet). The day started a little cloudy, but we didn’t let that deter us and off we went to the hunt.  The kids looked so cute – it was spring and Saturday and they were excited and talked about all the eggs they would find and all the fun they would have.   

Katie’s birthday had been in March, and she had on for the first time this really cute outfit my Mom had given her.  It was cream color velour jeans, with a matching cropped cream corduroy jacket.  The jacket had all these gold buttons sewn everywhere on it, there must have been over 50 buttons of all types!   

The Easter Egg Hunt at Powell Gardens consisted of two activities.  Kids 6 and older could go hunt eggs in a wooded area where they had cleared a trail with hundreds of eggs scattered along the route. They said it was about a half hour walk from start to finish.  (Remember that this was Powell Gardens in 1991, not many years after it had opened.  It was a little rough back then, as now the wooded trail is a lot longer, is paved and they have made considerable improvements, built lots of buildings and attractions since then.)  

The littler kids less than 6 years old could go across the field to a hilly area where they were having an Easter egg roll.  To take part in the roll, they had requested that you bring a dozen eggs so the Powell Gardens’ volunteers would have enough to roll down the hill for all the little kids.   

So I decided to take Nick and Katie through the woods hunting eggs, and Mom took Ian to the Easter egg roll with the dozen eggs I had colored the night before.  Off we all went with several baskets in hand to line up for each event.  As we lined up at the designated time, a very light sprinkle started.  But it didn’t deter any of us and when the Powell Gardens’ volunteer blew the whistle about 100 kids followed by many adults scrambled to the entrance of the woods. (There were also about 50 or more smaller kids at the top of the hill ready for the roll.)  

Kids quickly scooped up the brightly colored neon eggs and Nick found a blue one and Katie a sunshine yellow egg.  Right after each of them found these first eggs, the sprinkle then turned to a light drizzle.  I was a little worried about all of us getting wet, so I asked them if they wanted to go back to the car, as we were still near the entrance.   Both Nick and Katie said no, they wanted to keep going until they each got the eight eggs each child was allowed to pick up.  (Powell Gardens’ way of insuring that everyone would get a fair number of eggs.)   

We went further into the woods, and things were really getting wet.  The ground had already been damp from a Spring shower the day before, and very quickly things started getting a little messy.  Both Nick and Katie were worried about getting dirty, afraid that my Mom or myself would be upset for getting their shoes and clothes muddy.  Katie was especially concerned because of her new cream-colored outfit and tiptoed on patches of green to try to avoid mud.    

Because they were being so cautious about avoiding the mud, they were missing out on getting eggs they saw, as more aggressive kids in more appropriate clothing for the weather were splashing around in the mud and greenery getting far more than the allotted eight eggs!   

Katie spotted a purple egg like these before she got stuck in the mud and fell.

 

I was very damp and feeling a little cranky, so as two boys about 9 or 10 years old passed by who had been kind of hogging all the eggs along the trail (their parents weren’t with them in the woods), I stopped them and questioned them about the number of eggs in their baskets.  While both boys shot me guilty looks as if I had caught them red-handed, the one with wet sandy-hair said “you’re not the boss of me!”   And then they ran off.   

Katie, Nick and I trudged along the trail, stepping gingerly to avoid the mud but it was almost impossible.  Suddenly Katie spotted a purple egg hidden in the moss by a tree near a small stream.  She went to step over the stream but her foot got stuck in some silt and suddenly she was sinking fast with mud oozing over her shoes that by this time were already filthy.   

When I reached her, Katie’s damp cream-colored jeans were grey up to the knees and getting darker every minute. Before I could grab her hand to pull her out, she lost her balance and fell back.  She got right back up, but now the backside of her pretty cream velour jeans and the back of her matching cream jacket had mud all over on them.  By this time the drizzle had let up a little and had turned into a steady, gentle rainfall.  

A half hour had passed, and it appeared as if we were almost to the end of the trail.  However, Nick had only collected 5 of his 8 eggs, and Katie only 3 of her 8.  I looked at my poor miserable, wet and muddy niece and nephew and said, “why don’t we head back and find Grandma and Ian?  This isn’t the best day to hunt for eggs.”   

They nodded in agreement and both started saying sweet little things so I wouldn’t feel bad.  Nick grabbed my hand saying, “We found plenty of eggs, Aunt Sheree, we don’t need any more.”  

“This has  been so much fun it’s not your fault that it rained,” said Katie, taking my other hand, “I’m sure Grandma or Mom can get my outfit clean, they’ll just have to use some extra soap.”  

Nick put one of his eggs in Katie’s basket so they each had four eggs.  We finally made it to the clearing and walked over to the parking lot.  But the egg roll was over, and we couldn’t find my Mom and Ian.  Suddenly this door opens to a big white van, and there she is on the passenger side, Ian on her lap, with some strange man on the drivers’ side.   

She explained that the driver of the van had let them take cover from the rain since I had the car keys in my purse.  At least the two of them were dry!  But my painted easter eggs were a bust.  First of all, we weren’t supposed to have brought real eggs, and the dye quickly had washed away with the rain.  The hard-boiled eggs sat in a basket on the ground outside the van with just hints of color left here and there and they weren’t allowed to be rolled down the hill by the powers to be at Powell Gardens.  

I had no pictures from this adventure at Powell Gardens, but Katie still talks about it to this day!

 

Nick wasn’t that muddy except his shoes, or at least it didn’t show on his navy pants and sweater.  But poor Katie was a disaster.  Her long blonde hair was wet and had a little bit of mud in it from the fall, and the cream-colored jeans and the cute little button jacket were wet and covered in mud and green stains from the foliage, ferns and grass.  

The rain had stopped  and we all headed over to the car.  We took off Nick and Katie’s muddy shoes and socks (all soaked) and took off Katie’s jacket and put them all in the car trunk.  Fortunately, I had a couple of blankets in the trunk.  I took one and circled it around her, had her slip off the muddy wet jeans, then I wrapped her up in it.  We put Ian in his car seat, then next to him in the back, we bundled Nick and Katie with the other blanket and we headed back to Kansas City.  

Fortunately, we had a change of clothes for everyone at the house, and had everyone cleaned up by the time Nick and Katie’s mom came over to pick them up.   My sister-in-law had decided to take all of their wet clothes home saying she would wash them, but it was a hopeless cause for the cream jeans and gold button jacket.  The outfit had its one and only “wearing” that day.  

When we talk about our Saturday adventures, Katie especially remembers this escapade at Powell Gardens.  She clearly remembers the cute outfit because of all the buttons.  She remembers hunting for eggs in the rain and getting that cream-colored outfit all muddy.  She remembers her brother giving her some of his eggs.  She remembers finding Grandma and Ian in a car with a stranger.  She remembers riding home barefoot and wrapped in a blanket.   

But what I remember from that day is what good sports both Nick and Katie were.  Especially Katie.  Instead of complaining or crying about how the day turned out, she just giggled and laughed about the fiasco all the way home. And she still laughs about it to this day.  

However, despite her being such a good sport, I have never been able to get her to go to Powell Gardens again.

“Don’t” Miss Reading or Seeing “Auntie Mame”

25 Jul

I read today how the book “Auntie Mame,” considered a lost classic, is back in print in Britain after its reprinting success in Europe as well as America.  It’s one of the best-selling books of the 20th century, and of course was made into a Broadway play, musical and several movies.  It’s one of my favorites because Mame is a fabulous example  for what happiness, optimism, tolerance, fun and integrity means and she is the epitome of a loving aunt. 

I hope it’s true that they are remaking the movie!  While sometimes you shouldn’t mess with a good thing, I think doing a modern-day version of this terrific story would be fun to see.  I would have loved to have seen Angela Lansbury in Mame on Broadway!  Two wonderful songs are from the musical – “If He Walked Into My Life” and “We Need a Little Christmas.”  If you haven’t seen one of the movies or read the book, I encourage you to do so!