Saturday, November 29, 2014

Festival of Trees Parade

Lillian and I LOVE watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade on Thanksgiving morning.

As it happens -- there is a wonderful local big balloon parade right here in Davenport, Iowa every year to kick off the Festival of Trees. This year, Lilly is 5 years old, and the weather was cooperating (no rain, 50 degrees) -- so I decided at the last minute that WE SHOULD JUST DO IT...

We arrived in downtown Davenport about an hour before the parade was to begin. There were thousands of people, and soon, we were in gridlock traffic. Ugh. I parked the car and we got out to walk down to the parade route.

All those thousands of people were carrying those nifty lightweight folding canvas know the kind -- with the carrying case they casually fling over their shoulder.

Oh oh.  It suddenly dawns on me that I'm going to have to stand for the next three hours.  


I almost turned around at that point -- but Lilly was so excited.....So, we walked on -- and I hoped there would be a bench somewhere...or at least a tree I could lean on....

Then, on the corner of 3rd and Ripley, right where the parade is going to make a turn -- I notice all these people sitting on chairs and benches in front of a junk store I've never noticed before. We went in, and it is jam packed with my kind of is packed tight with used furniture, some Retro stuff, many kitschy pieces....
I took this picture three hours AFTER the parade...because during the actual parade, it was impossible to cross the street to even TAKE the darn picture...

Lillian and I walked in and I looked around, hoping there was something I WANTED TO BUY -- so I could befriend the owner...(yes, I am an evil genius -- AND I used to own a retail store...!)

As Ritaluck would have it -- I found the PERFECT treasure (another post).  Larry (my new friend, the owner) negotiated a price with me.

Still looking around his exciting store, I said   "how much for one of those benches out front?"

Larry:  $5

Me:  Sold.  (getting my billfold out of my purse)....So, now, Larry -- you must go out there and tell those people to get off my bench...

Of course, laughing now -- he did exactly that. The two men who had settled in on the bench were dismayed to be losing their sturdy seat  (hey -- THEY HAD EVERY CHANCE TO BUY THE DARN THING)...

Larry brought my bench into the store...and I paid him the money. He told me we could set it up on the empty lot side of his store -- where there was a little rise -- and we'd be able to see all the balloons coming down the street...
I actually took this picture AFTER the parade -- when there weren't SO MANY PEOPLE

Lilly and I sat on the bench until the parade started. Once things got rolling, she wanted to be on the curb -- and as it happens -- we had a small tree right in front of us -- so she had a PERFECT watching spot, and she didn't have to push in front of the people who arrived before us...

There is more to this'll have to be a two-part post....

Friday, November 28, 2014

Holiday Kids Activities

Yesterday, a woman emailed me and said that Thanksgiving is a magnifying glass.  It dramatically blows up both your blessings and your empty spots.   But, HEY -- IT IS OVER.  You have survived 2014 Thanksgiving.  Now the countdown starts for Christmas...(lol)...

If you have a child in your life -- hey -- EVEN IF YOU DON'T -- there are a bizillion wonderful activities going on at this time of the year.  I have the joy of picking and choosing what I want to do with Lilly (and now, Warren) --  and people often ask how I find out about all these events.  I look in the usual places -- the Museums and theater websites...

No matter where you live -- you have the same options, I'm sure. Start looking around -- surf the net in your area for plays or concerts or holiday mansion tours.  Plan some fun outings.  Make it a surprise adventure for a friend, your sister, a neighbor or a distant cousin.  Use it as an excuse to get back in touch with somebody you miss...

There are so many things happening at basically THE SAME TIME -- I decided to compile a list...

2014 Christmas Events…(Quad Cities, Iowa)

Twas the Night Before Christmas -- at Circa 21….$10 for show only (sat), $20 for brunch (Sunday) -- most weekends, starting the weekend after Thanksgiving…every weekend in December  (309) 786-7733 ext. 2
Disney on Ice -- Opening Night, December 4 - 7, at I Wireless…all opening night tickets are $13 -- but you’ve got to buy them at the ticket booth at I Wireless…

1940’s Radio Christmas Carol, QC Music Guild, $16 adult, $11 child,  Dec 4,5,6,7  Call 309-762-6610

 Dr. Suess, Cat in the Hat, December 6-7, off Locust Street, St. Ambrose’s Galvin…$9 tickets, (563) 333-6251

19th Century Christmas Deere-Wiman House and Butterworth Center, where you’ll find: 2014 Schedule   Dec. 7, noon to 5p.   No charge for admission.

• Beautiful decorations throughout both homes
• Exclusive appearance by Santa Claus. (bring your camera!)
• Free book for each of Santa’s first 400 visitors
• Performance by the Moline Boys Choir at Butterworth Center
• Face painting for children and caricature artist
• Art show and Children’s make-and-take crafts (sponsored by Left Bank Art
   League) in the Deere-Wiman Carriage House
• Children's make-and-take crafts

A Christmas Carol, Dec. 12-21, at the District Theater, 1611 2nd Ave., Rock Island, Illinois  61201  (309) 235-1654

Nutcracker -- December 14-15, at the Adler -- QC Ballet (tickets are from $10-$40)
If you don’t want the whole BALLET experience -- the ballerinas are “reading the book” at these locations this year.  These events are free…and little girls LOVE this story…

The Fountains Senior Living Community
3552 Thunder Ridge Road
Bettendorf, IA 52722
Wed, November 26th
12:30 pm
Davenport Public Library
(Fairmont Branch)
3000 North Fairmont Street
Davenport, IA 52804
Tues, December 2nd
7:00 pm
Moline Public Library
3210 41st Street
Moline, IL 61265
Wed, December 3rd
2:30 pm
Bettendorf Public Library
2950 Learning Campus Drive
Bettendorf, IA  52722
Mon, December 8th
6:30 pm

Dec. 19 and 20, Putnam Museum, Polar Express Pajama Party:  includes hot chocolate, lights out tour of the museum. There are two times each night…For tickets call (563) 324-1933

THIS IS SUCH AN AMAZING do not haves to be a kid to LOVE THIS TRAIN.  Go to the website (linked below), you can see if the train will be in your area. It will be in Davenport and then Clinton Iowa on December 5..and my dilemma is whether we should go early to stake out a place to stand (they open up several of the cars and give a concert -- great Christmas music, wonderful entertainment)...or just bundle the kids in the car and watch the train go through Princeton...(it is soo impressive)...

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving


Although some things never change -- Thanksgiving is not one of those things. A family is alive...which means it is always growing -- or shrinking. People come, people go (depending on the people, either one of those things could be the good news or the bad news).

Every family has their happy times. Birthday parties, graduations, good test scores, promotions, beautiful weddings, new babies.

Then there are the not-so-happy occasions. Kids move away. Couples get divorced and the dining room furniture is hauled off to the Goodwill. People die, they get sick, lose their jobs, or maybe their house burns down...

Every one of those things -- good or bad -- has one thing in common.


If you were having the perfect probably would NOT be reading this blog today...So, I am going to assume that something about this day sucks.

You are not alone...Trust me...

If your day sucked -- if you feel lonely -- or somebody hurt your feelings -- or disappointed you...or you are dealing with a loss....well -- it's a very long line you're standing in...

Thanksgiving has become a holiday full of pressure.   Norman Rockwell painted a fictional picture that no family could live up to.  The people you THINK are having a better day than you are probably bored out of their minds, feeling jealous or resentful of their annoying siblings, pissed off at their ungrateful children, and have spent the entire day biting their tongues...

Chances are good they are deliberately telling you the Norman Rockwell-edited version of their day....pretending everything was perfect....because they fear YOU had a better Thanksgiving than THEY DID...

The good news is -- IT'S JUST ONE DAY!!

If today REALLY sucked -- my advice is to write it all down.  Just for yourself.  It is so interesting to read these journal entries AFTER the fact.  It's how I learn.  Every single time.  If you write it down honestly -- then go back and read it in six months -- maybe next year you can PREVENT having another meltdown, crappy Thanksgiving.

But that almost always means you must embrace...that's right...let's all say it together....



P.S.  The Food Network has a Pioneer Woman marathon this morning.  And for the afternoon, I recommend the Lifetime movies.  

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Grandma's Thanksgiving Invitation

Today is the biggest cook day of the year....Good Luck!!
This email has been making the rounds...I love it...(thanks, Sandy)
Grandma's Invitation (Priceless) 

Dear Family,

I'm not dead yet. Thanksgiving is still important to me. If being in my Last Will and Testament is important to you, then you might consider being with me for my favorite holiday.

Dinner is at 2:00.

Not 2:15.

Not 2:05.

Two. 2:00

Arrive late and you get what's left over.

Last year that moron Marshall fried a turkey in one of those contraptions and practically burned the deck off the house. This year the only peanut oil used to make the meal will be from the secret scoop of peanut butter I add to the carrot soup.

Jonathan, your last new wife was an idiot. You don't arrive at someone's house on Thanksgiving needing to use the oven and the stove. Honest to God, I thought you might have learned after two wives - date them longer and save us all the agony of another divorce.

Now, the house rules are slightly different this year because I have decided that 47% of you don't know how to take care of nice things. Paper plates and red Solo cups might be bad for the environment, but I'll be gone soon and that will be your problem.

House Rules:

1. The University of Texas no longer plays Texas A and M. The television stays off during the meal.

2. The "no cans for kids" rule still exists. We are using 2 liter bottles because your children still open a third can before finishing the first two. All of the cups have names on them and I'll be paying close attention to refills.

3. Chloe, last year we were at Trudy's house and I looked the other way when your Jell-O salad showed up. This year if Jell-O salad comes in the front door it will go out the back door. Save yourself some time, honey. You've never been a good cook. And you shouldn't bring something that wiggles more than you. Buy something from the bakery.

4. Grandmothers give grandchildren cookies and candy. That is a fact of life. Your children can eat healthy at your home. At my home, they can eat whatever they like as long as they finish it.

5. I cook with bacon and bacon grease. That's nothing new. Your being a vegetarian doesn't change the fact that stuffing without bacon is like egg salad without eggs. Even the green bean casserole has a little bacon grease in it. That's why it tastes so good. Not eating bacon is just not natural.

6. Salad at Thanksgiving is a waste of space.

7. I do not like cell phones. Leave them in the car.

8. Words mean things. I say what I mean. Let me repeat: You don't need to bring anything means you don't need to bring anything. And if I did tell you to bring something, bring it in the quantity I said. Really, this doesn't have to be difficult.

9. Dominos and cards are better than anything that requires a battery or an on/off switch.

10. Showing up for Thanksgiving guarantees presents at Christmas. Not showing up guarantees a card that may or may not be signed.

In memory of your Grandfather, the back fridge will be filled with beer. Drink until it is gone. I prefer wine.

Love You, Grandma.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving & Flexibility

For a few years -- John and I were alone for Thanksgiving. Elliott and Ross were living in Georgia and Minnesota. I tried to picture in my head what it would be like.  Cooking Thanksgiving dinner for just the two of us. Hummm?? What was once romantic, (as newlyweds in 1970) now seemed impossibly lonely. And LIKE A LOT OF WORK..

So, I was delighted when my niece Amy invited us to join her family for Thanksgiving. I was more than happy to cook side dishes for her feast -- and even John enjoyed the hustle bustle of Amy's little boys and her house full of Thanksgiving guests...

That girl can rock an apron!
A lot has changed since those empty-nester years.  Ross moved home and is going to nursing school.  After 15 years of living away, and missing Thanksgiving completely -- he is actually back in the house.

And -- Elliott and Emily got out of the Army and settled five five minutes from us. They, of course, have TWO CHILDREN...

So, I joyfully went back to cooking the Thanksgiving dinner at my house. I want to make "Grandma's house" memories for Lilly and Warren.

Ahhh....those grandchildren....

In 2009, Lilly was eight months old for her first Thanksgiving...

Leopard and black velvet....PERFECT...
And her look-alike brother!! What bounty, eh?? Warren was 11 months old for his First Thanksgiving...
Lilly -- in her Thanksgiving leopard outfit the year she was two. Yes, she is loving the leopard...

Last year, she reluctantly tried on five leopard outfits...with Sophie looking on, of course...
I thought wearing leopard would be a charming Thanksgiving tradition that we would do year after year. But, as it turns out, it became something Lilly and I argued about -- so I had to let it go. (yes, I am living inside a Disney movie)...

I'm over it. And that's the lesson.  I cared about the leopard -- but Lilly did not.  So what purpose was being served by me insisting?  Where is the Grandma memory in that??

However -- the thing that HAS BECOME a wonderful tradition is that Lillian spends the night here on Wednesday.  She "helps me cook". We put on our aprons...(she has her own apron hook in the kitchen)....and we cook... 

The very, very best part of Thanksgiving isn't about the meal at all. (that turkey is always a crap shoot)... The Grandma Memory will be Lilly and I working together in the kitchen, wearing our aprons, and listening to Christmas music.

The Grandma memory will be the two of us watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade -- and talking about NEW YORK CITY.  These are the moments she will remember when she is 70 years old...
Here's the thing....keep your eye on the prize.

On this day, you may have an opportunity to make a lasting memory with somebody you love.  I hope.  Be flexible.  If none of your people want to wear leopard -- let it go.  If the gravy is lumpy -- move to Plan B (have some canned gravy in the pantry).  If somebody important doesn't come -- joyfully move forward with THOSE WHO SHOWED UP...

At the end of the day -- people will not remember whether the turkey was dry or who came late to dinner.  But they will ALWAYS remember the way you made them feel...

Monday, November 24, 2014

Tie One On Day

Welcome to Thanksgiving week. I hope this is a happy time for you and you are looking forward to being surrounded by your family and friends. I hope you love all the wonderful things that come with this grand American family holiday. Getting the extra beds ready for out of town company -- shopping for the groceries....baking your special pumpkin pies, your Grandma's stuffing or Aunt Glad's cranberry salad...
God knows there's PRESSURE to make the perfect turkey...

BUT -- there are people you know who may not be having a Norman Rockwell experience. Many people, through no fault of their own, are lonely during this time of year. They don't have warm, fuzzy families or giving, caring friends who include them. Today would be a good time to reflect on that -- and think about what you could do to include them in your holiday.

Which is why I love the whole concept of Tie One On Day. EllynAnne Geisel, author of The Apron Book, created this day and I LOVE IT. You should go to her website to read more about it: Apron Memories
In a nutshell -- on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, you use an apron to wrap a gift of food and deliver it to somebody who just might need a lift. Consider it a random act of kindness...paying it forward....

It was an honor for me to interview EllynAnne for Inspired To Sew magazine. Click on the link to read the story -- and then, I'm sure you'll want to TIE ONE ON this week!!

There are only two must personally deliver your apron/food/gift...and you must include a hand-written note. You can do it. I will, too.


Because I cannot go to her house to personally deliver an apron -- I'm sending this crappy-blog-version of a Tie One On gift to my friend Eileen.  She lost her mother last week...and I would really like to give her a hug.  Her Mom lived the Tie One On principal every day....and there is no better teacher than a good example.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Last Garden Pick of the Summer

Every year, the VERY LAST crop John picks from the garden is...drumroll, please.... RADISHES. Although he has radishes earlier in the summer -- they can be strong. For whatever reason, the radishes he plants in September are amazingly mild....
He also picked the last of the parsley -- right before the first freeze...
The radishes ARE AMAZING....huge, and crisp and flavorful...
I am about to build one of my FAVORITE SANDWICHES....and here are the three ingredients...
Thinly slice the radishes....
Soft white bread, mayonnaise, layers of thinly sliced radishes...some salt....
I am talking a little bit of serious heaven here, people...this sandwich is SO DELICIOUS...the radishes are crispy and so mild.  It's the kind of sandwich you think about in the middle of the night...
And, I have to say -- I MISS WONDER BREAD!!
I understand that products come and go. But how did we lose Wonder Bread?? When that bakery went out of business -- we also lost Twinkies, remember? I believe the Twinkies are back -- but apparently, nobody is going to resurrect Wonder Bread.

It got such a bad rap -- refined white flour, empty calories, no nutritional value, we should all be eating whole wheat, blah, blah, blah...trying to do the right thing -- in the interest of better eating habits -- the sales plummeted and, eventually, the bakery closed...

I'm just saying -- I MISS WONDER BREAD.  No other bread even comes close to the soft, deliciousness that was the Wonder Bread of my childhood.  

Friday, November 21, 2014

Missing the Garden...

Last week, we woke up to temperatures of 8 degrees.  As much as I enjoy the seasons...starting the winter off in a vicious Polar Vortex is pushing my conviction....

After just two days of the bitter cold weather, I have a new understanding for the flocks of Snowbirds those-- otherwise-hardy-Midwesterners -- who go south for the winter.  I used to call them pussies.

But now I get it...

Hell...who are we kidding?  I envy them.

AND -- I am really missing the garden...

If you are a gardener, you know that every season comes with it's own gifts and pleasures. That's the whole point of having a garden, really.

This year, the first big mouth-watering crop was the asparagus. We picked it every-other-day for over a month. It was a GREAT year. Lilly loved looking for the asparagus (the weeds would hide it just enough to make it exciting), and we enjoyed eating it hot, with butter. Then cold, tossed with vinegar and oil. And sometimes creamed -- over toast.

One of the biggest rewards of the garden is, of course, the tomatoes. By the time we were sitting on the porch, eating BLT sandwiches made with the first tomatoes of the season...our mouths were watering. It is always one of the best moments of the year.
Every summer, I look forward to hearing from Linda Boothman when she makes her first mayo/peanut butter/tomato sandwich...

If you live in Iowa -- you can grow beautiful garlic, onions and lettuce, cabbage and cucumbers, green beans are very big here.
...but all that is just killing time until you can PICK THE SWEETCORN.
For our family, the big gardening victory is marked by Elliott's birthday. July 8, we ALWAYS have pesto for his birthday dinner. That takes two cups of basil -- and it is usually the first pick of the year. It is a mouth-watering, delicious Farro family tradition.
For his birthday dinner, Elliott always gets snow crab legs...and a big bowl of pesto spaghetti.
In the Fall, gardeners wait patiently for their squash and pumpkins. John dug buckets of Yukon Gold potatoes that will last us through the winter...
There is NOTHING better than fried potatoes...
This morning, on this bitter cold day, I opened the refrigerator and saw the final Garden Crop....tomorrow, I'll blog about it.


P.S.  -- I know this bit of weather/whining is completely inappropriate, considering I don't live anywhere near Buffalo, New York...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Frozen Chicken Pot Pies

My family was trying to kick a serious cold/flu/bug. So, I made a big pot of chicken soup. Normally, I would freeze the leftover soup. But, for a little switch-up, I decided to turn the soup into Chicken Pot Pie -- and put THAT in the freezer instead.

We all love homemade Chicken Pot Pie --

I decided to make SEVERAL pies -- so I needed to add more stuff to the soup, and thicken it.

I chopped a bunch of carrots, celery and onions and sauteed them in a separate pan. I added them to the soup, along with a can of corn, and a can of condensed cream of chicken soup. It was a REALLY BIG POT of deliciousness now -- but still a little thin for a pie filling. So I added a flour/water slurry to thicken it.

It tasted great....and it's nice and thick.  But now -- it doesn't have enough chicken.

So, I shredded an entire rotisserie chicken into the gigantic pot of deliciousness.

I declared the filling PERFECT.

Pie Crust:
As the filling was cooling -- I rolled out four pie crusts (Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts) and blind baked them for 10 minutes.  Lilly loves to put the parchment paper in, then add the marbles/rocks to keep the crust from bubbling up.

If I add the top crust -- it will make them very fragile in my freezer. So, I covered the one-crust pies with plastic wrap and placed them in the freezer overnight (in a single layer). The next morning, I was able to stack them neatly in a corner. (and I double-bagged them)
I ended up with such a LARGE POT of filling -- I made FOUR huge pot pies for the freezer!!
I put the frozen pot pie (covered with foil) in a 375 oven for an hour. I took it out, made sure the filling was completely hot...then replaced the foil with a newly-rolled-out-top crust and popped it back in the oven. The top crust was golden brown in about 15 minutes...

...with a little help from my friends...

Pick a Midwest Ya Ya Picture

This is more or less a private post for Mary Mulari. I seem to be the KEEPER OF THE PHOTOS...and we're looking for a new picture to use for our BIG MIDWEST YA YA EVENT next spring...(soon to be announced).  If you happen to read this (not likely)...send me your vote: (

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Cleaning Vintage Silverplate

Every single week I MUST do some thrifting. Garage sales, thrift shops, auctions. I write about these adventures all the time. People ask what I'm looking for. The honest answer is that I'm seldom looking for anything specific. It's more like "I'll know it when I see it".

But there are things that always trip my trigger. Aprons, vintage bed linens, books, AND -- I am a sucker for an elegant, beautiful, round soup spoon. I started collecting them 15 years ago when my sisters and I went to Ireland.  Finding one is always a thrill for me...and finding a matching set?? can just about imagine!!
I have A LOT OF old silverplate...and it gets very tarnished.
Unlike Seabass -- nobody wants a blackened spoon.
For me, one of the thrills of finding vintage linens is washing them and bringing them back into my normal homemaking rotation.  And I feel the same way about my vintage silverplate....I have tried many products over the years...most of them very time-consuming.

Then, of course, in the new world we live in -- PINTEREST showed me a better way....

Here it is:  De-tarnish ALL your silver at once... line your sink with aluminum foil, add 1/2 c table salt, 1/2 c. baking soda, fill with hot water, then dump in all your silver! Let sit for about 30 min. The tarnish all transfers to the foil! 

Instead of using my sink -- I used a cake pan.
And I did exactly what Pinterest told me to do...
Pretty impressive, eh?
And -- oh -- I also collect unique spooners...
For me -- many things qualify as a can be a vase, or a large mug...I think this was actually intended to BE a spooner...every now and then, it's important to do something conventional and expected...

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Helen Farro's Pancakes

My mother-in-law, Helen Farro, taught me how to make pancakes in l970. Pancakes are a signature meal in this house. John always makes the Christmas morning pancakes, and he often makes them for Lilly on Sundays. Nowadays, I make a double batch to put some in the freezer. (Warren does not like to wait for his breakfast.)

I could make pancakes with one hand tied behind my back. My mother-in-law, Helen, taught me her recipe -- and it goes something like this:

2 cups of flour
2 tsp. of baking powder
2 tbl. sugar
dash of salt
2 eggs
1/3 c. oil
Start with 1 1/4 cup of milk -- and add more milk until it's the right consistency.

Like so many good cooks, Helen knew technique was just as important as recipe. These tips will help you, too:
  • Never over-beat pancake batter. (Lumpy is okay.)
  • Rest the batter for 30 minutes.(at least)
  • It's okay to have the batter too thick, (it's easy to add milk but impossible to add flour)...
  • Heat the griddle to 375 degrees, and make a test pancake.
  • Do not flip until the air bubbles start bursting

We have a 30" restaurant grill in our kitchen, and I can cook a dozen pancakes at once. IT IS A DREAM.  Oh, yeah, pancakes have always been part of the deal here at the Farro house.

Which is why it is awesome to discover a GAME CHANGER after all these years. I am proud that I was open to a NEW IDEA -- even though I believed my pancakes were perfect.

It happened one Sunday morning.  Lillian said, "could you put coconut in my pancakes, Grandma?" She recently discovered coconut. (she got an Almond Joy for Trick or Treat).
I INSTANTLY knew coconut was a great idea. AND WHY DIDN'T I EVER THINK OF IT??
I made the pancakes in the normal way -- but sprinkled a lot of coconut on the batter as the first side was cooking..
When I flipped the pancakes, the coconut got all toasty and crisp...
COCONUT PANCAKES ROCKED THE HOUSE. THEY WERE AMAZING. We ate them like we always do -- real butter and syrup.  Great idea, Lilly!!  Your Great-grandmother would be VERY proud...

There were a few leftovers -- and they were a delicious snack. It did occur to me that with a bit of Nutella -- I'd be having an Almond Joy moment!! (sinful, I know)