Friday, April 20, 2018

Mom's Apple Pie 2.0

Hey -- this re-run is from 2009!!  The year I started this blog.  There isn't a day in my life when I don't think about Apple Pie.  This is a conversation I have helps me.

November, 2009:

First of all -- I can't believe you have TIME TO READ A BLOG today!! With Thanksgiving two days away -- it's just not possible to get everything done. So my tip of the day is "Mom's Apple Pie". My Mom baked the absolute BEST apple pie in the world. Here's a visual...

But this is not a recipe -- it's a metaphor...which might help you get through the holidays. Think of every single day as one of Mom's Apple Pies. A wonderful, delicious treat meant to be enjoyed. But, it's only one pie -- and if you try to cut it into a hundred different pieces, nobody enjoys it.

When the boys were small, I was running a retail business. I was being pulled in many directions -- there was work, special events, marketing, Chamber of Commerce, the beginning of my speaking business, then I'd go home to cooking and cleaning, mountains of dirty clothes, little league baseball games four nights a week, wanting to eat dinner with them, but having no time.

One day, I realized I had just as much time as everybody else. I simply was not doing the things that mattered to me the most.....That's when it hit me that each day was like one delicious apple pie. I GET TO DECIDE who gets a piece of my pie. My family deserved HALF. The business needed the other half. So the Chamber of Commerce fell off my priority list and I let other people take over the PTA and running the school carnival.

So there it is -- my Apple Pie Philosophy. It is YOUR DAY, AND YOUR TIME. And only YOU can decide who is deserving of your time and energy. Embracing this philosophy gives you the right to say "NO". Maybe you'd rather rock the grandbaby than bake your own rolls. get my also gives you the right to say "YES"...

2018 Apple Pie Winners:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Too Old To Travel. (TOTT)...

After I get through my time-consuming re-entry back into my Iowa life...I will tell you WHERE I WENT for a whole week. By Myself. Mostly.

And why I probably won't do it again...

One of the tricky parts about life is figuring out when a thing is over...and it's time to move on... 

Y'know -- I used to LOVE going to those small town Little League games.  Both Ross and Elliott played baseball for years...and I thought those games would always be a part of my summer life here in Iowa.  But, as it turns out, they grew up, we got busy with other things, and I haven't been to a baseball game in 20 years.

Some things become a happy memory -- like a chapter you read in a good book once.  Like chopping firewood, giving your kids a bath before they go to bed at night, or making salt water taffy (actually, I never did that myself)...

But, what I'm talking about is realizing, as I get older, there are things I just flat SHOULD NOT, you don't have to cover your eyes...I'm not about to discuss Kamasutra sexual positions...I'm talking about renting a car and driving out of the Baltimore airport...

I wrote this post in 2016.  I should have RE-READ it sooner...

John is from Pennsylvania. We met in 1970 in Washington, D.C. and were married later that year. Although we've spent most of our life together in Iowa, and raised our boys here -- we have always gone back to Pennsylvania every summer to visit John's family.
Yes, 45 years of summer road trips back to Schuylkill County,'s a 14 hour road trip. And John never lets me drive Fun, eh?
We rented a bright rust-colored Hyundai Santa Fe on Friday, September 23. We picked it up at the airport at 5:00 pm-- with the intention of leaving at Midnight. (in order to get through Chicago at 3:00 AM, missing the rush hour).

So, it was after dark when we were packing the car. John went to bed about 9:00 to take a nap. Ross came home from work at 11:30, and chastised us because the dome light was on in the rental car, and also John’s trunk light was on. (According to him, he had to turn off the dome light in my car three times last week,) Ross helped us pack the car, then he went to bed.

30 minutes later, we were ready to pull out -- but couldn’t because John’s Honda was parked behind the Santa Fe.  At that moment, we realized that neither one of us had a house key. So -- we had to wake Ross up. I called his cellphone, and he picked  up and said, “you're locked out of the house, aren't you?”

Ross came down and opened the door so John could get his Honda/House keys. We’re off. FINALLY. Five minutes later, we pulled into the local 24-hour gas station to “top it off”…as gas is much cheaper in Iowa.

The problem was that we couldn’t find the little tab that pops the gas cap open. We looked…and looked…because it’s a Hyundai, and I drive one myself, I figured it would be in the same general area on the dashboard. It was not. WE LOOKED EVERYWHERE…

Finally  -- I gave up and got out the HUGE book from the glove compartment. I tried to use the index…but there was no such topic as. “gas cap”… The light was bad, the mosquitoes were awful, and I could not read the tiny little print in this large 800-page book. I was annoyed to see two people inside the gas station, their faces pressed against the window...watching and laughing…

FINALLY -- I saw a diagram in the front of the book and realized the tab in question is ON THE DRIVERS DOOR…WHA??

OMG...##&^%$$#^^&&!!!. It was almost 2:00 AM before we got on the road…and I was already whipped. So was John. We drove straight through Illinois -- and it was early morning when we stopped at a Travel Plaza in Indiana. We both went to use the bathrooms…and then, sat down to eat a breakfast sandwich. John went out to the car...I stopped to buy a bottle of water.

When I got out to the Santa Fe (remember the BRIGHT RUST COLOR) -- I was surprised that John wasn’t sitting in it. But the lights were going off and on. Hummm… I went to the passenger door, and it was unlocked. As I was about to get in, I finally saw John. He was 40 feet away -- opening the door of WHITE Santa Fe -- that apparently had unlocked with his key fob.

I started to laugh…then, called his name, just as he was about to get in the wrong vehicle. When he heard me -- he closed that door and came over to our BRIGHT RUST COLORED car. I was laughing so hard, I could not speak.

He said the first Santa Fe he opened was a gray one -- but when he opened that door, he smelled smoke, so he knew it wasn’t ours…but he was sure the white one WAS...

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? He actually got that Hyundai key fob to open up THREE VEHICLES…. was a rocky 9:00 AM, I texted Ross, "at the first Travel Plaza, your Dad got in two wrong cars"...and Ross texted back..."Stay where you are.  I am coming to get you."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Padora's Italian Bread

I've been ON VACATION for a whole week!! And today is my re-entry day. I thought I'd written enough blog posts (before I left) before I left. But I see this morning that nothing posted. DARN...
It'll take me a day or so to catch-up now that I'm back in Iowa...

So, I'm going to rely on a few well chosen re-reruns....

I was in Maryland (for a surprise visit, which I'll write about soon) -- AND then I went to Pennsylvania.  There was one remarkable day...when I go to take my friend Kathy to this amazing place....AND IT WAS A.M.A.Z.I.N.G...

I wrote this in 2014:

One of the highlights of our Pennsylvania vacation ALWAYS -- is eating bread from the Italian baker in Tamaqua.

John likes to get there at 11:30, just as the bread is coming out of the large coal-fired brick oven...(which is over 100 years old) and he usually buys two or three loaves. We freeze some to bring back to Iowa -- but the biggest treat is to sit down and eat a fresh loaf of crusty bread, while it's still warm enough to melt butter.

Yes, I am a lucky, lucky girl!!

OMG..OMG...OMG...due to the miracle that is the Internet -- I found this article about Padora's Italian Bakery.  This is actually more than I ever knew about this bread and it's history.  Thank you, Al Gore...!!

Baked to perfection
Friday, February 26, 2010


Lawrence "Mickey" Padora, 83, is a master baker who specializes in only one product - Italian bread.
Born Lorenzo Guiseppe Padora, Mickey has spent over 50 years making fresh, hard-crusted Italian bread in Tamaqua's Italian Bakery. The small, white wood-frame structure clings to the hillside unannounced at 122 Railroad Street. Locals call the area Pleasant Row.

Consumers say Padora's bread is without equal.

Demand for the tasty treat has allowed Padora and wife, Carolyn, to stay in business and raise six children - Donna, Anna, Michael, Johnny, Carol and Larry, all of whom did chores and pitched in to help at the bakery throughout the years.

The shop's yield is high. Orders vary each day. But it's not unusual for the one-room outfit to produce 500 loaves a day six days a week when orders mount.

While most of the product ends up in local stores and better restaurants, the golden brown loaves also get shipped to far away places. Padora's bread has been all across the country, plus to Ireland, Wales and Canada. One family was known to pack it in suitcases for their regular trips to Hawaii.

Much of the product, however, stays in homes and eateries in Schuylkill, Luzerne and Carbon counties. Some is used to make hoagies at Padora's Six Pack House, 209 Railroad St., a side business owned by the family.

The old Tamaqua Italian Bakery has been Padora's bread and butter for most of his life.
 "We only closed one year, it was during the Korean conflict in 1958," he says.

Everything about Padora's approach to breadmaking is special, from the Old World Italian recipe to his historic, century-old, open-hearth firebrick. It's fueled by buckwheat-sized anthracite coal.
"A state inspector once said he believes the bakery to be the only one of its kind in the state," says 36-year-old Larry, Padora's son and a bread baker in his own right.

Some believe the firebrick bake oven fueled by anthracite coal may be the only one in the country. In Tamaqua, the bakery is an institution and locals walk to the place to pick up their daily bread.
On June 11, 1998, Tamaqua's Italian Bakery was forced stop operations briefly when an essential piece of equipment went bad.

The bin on the dough mixer had worn through from years of use. The vintage apparatus, a motor-driven, 1913 Hobart Peerless Bread Machine from Sidney, Ohio, could no longer be used. Replacement parts were impossible to find.

"The company was still in business so we called and they were surprised to learn about the old machine still in use," says Larry.

Peerless had no solution to the problem and a new, computerized $65,000 doughmaker just wouldn't cut it.

A family friend, John "Sonny" Trudich Jr., came to the rescue. Trudich helped to remove the worn bin and directed the Padoras to a Tamaqua fabricator, Nestor's Iron Works. There, a thick steel band six feet long was manufactured and shaped to form a new bin. The bakery reopened on Saturday, just two days later.

The famous brick oven also was repaired once. Larry crawled inside the confined space to tend to the firebricks.

"You could never do it if you were claustrophobic," says Larry.

According to Mickey, the unusual dome-topped hearth measures about 21 X 20 feet. It gets its heat from a vortex of hot, fan-forced air shot from the coal fire. The fire is positioned beside the oven, not underneath. In full operation, temperatures can reach 1,200 degrees although the bread is normally baked at about 650.

Once fired, the bricks become hot and the oven retains its heat. The Padoras use about two tons of coal a month.

The unusual oven was built around the turn of the century by George (D'Allesio) Dallas, who commissioned experts from Italy to do the job.

Dallas operated the oven for several years before 1911 then leased it to Odoriso Sozio and sons who ran the business until the 1920s.

Afterward, it was taken over by one of Sozio's helpers, Emedio Zaraca, originally from Italy, who baked bread until his death in 1955.

Zaraca's wife Anna and son Robert continued for another year before turning it over to Mickey Padora.

Mickey learned the bread making technique while assisting Zaraca, he said.

Larry picked up the trade from his father but never let on that he knew how to do it until Mickey became hospitalized. While an inpatient, Mickey couldn't understand why hospital visitors mentioned that they were still enjoying the bread. Turns out, Larry had taken over the reins but never said a word.

"I think he was surprised," Larry says.

A reserved and modest man, Mickey is proud to point out that his bread is a wholesome, homemade product that contains no chemicals, additives or preservatives.

"We use an expensive, high-quality flour."

And there's no need for an oven timer because Padora instinctively knows when the loaves are ready, browned to a turn. At just the right moment, he reaches deep into the hot cavern using oversized, wooden spatula-type tools - with handles close to forty feet long - and retrieves the fully baked delight.

The healthful benefits of Padora's sugar and additive-free leavened bread have not gone unnoticed by local physicians and heart doctors. Some have recommended the bread to their patients.

Dale W. Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society, says he, too, is a loyal customer.
"It's the finest, unique Italian bread I've had anywhere. It's outstanding, and I know what I'm talking about. My brother is an Italian bread connoisseur and he's tried breads from all over the country. He says nothing else even comes close."

For the Padora family, the bakery represents an honest, hard-working job producing a product known as the bread of life, common to everyman.

After all, people are individuals and everybody is unique. But bread, perhaps, is the one single common denominator, as basic as air and water.

"I've met some of the nicest people in here," says Mickey.

Larry agrees, noting that the business has provided an avenue to interact with people from all walks of life.

"Everybody has eaten this bread," says Larry, "from poor people to millionaires."


Another miracle from the internet -- somebody posted a video of Mickey Padora.  My husband John spent 20 years talking to this guy, every fall, trying to pick his brain about how to make the perfect loaf of Italian are his secrets!! (Pat Leslie, you are going to LOVE this video)...

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

My LEAST FAVORITE thing to do...

Like everybody else in the world -- I HATE GOING TO THE DENTIST.

I always have.  In 1973, John and I moved to Pine Grove, Pennsylvania.  I went to a new dentist who had been recommended by a friend.  At that first appointment, I told Dr. Smith (bogus name) that I had a low tolerance for pain -- and, as a matter of fact, I usually got my shot of Novocaine before the x-rays.

Without skipping a beat, with both hands stuck in my mouth, Dr. Smith said to his assistant, "let's not waste a whole file folder on Mrs.Farro -- put her information on a recipe card.  Use a pencil."

I stayed with that dentist the whole time we lived there.  So, obviously, I appreciate a sense of humor.

Fast forward.  In 1981, I started going to young guy right out of Dental School -- Greg Glade.  He was just starting out -- and I figured he would be my LAST dentist.  But, alas, Greg retired EARLY -- so now, I have to start with a new dentist.  Again.

On my second visit to HER (my new dentist is a woman), she told me she found a cavity INSIDE a crown. Ugh.

At my next appointment,  she hammered and pried, using various was a real struggle to remove that crown so she could get at the decay. Ugh. Apparently, Dr. Glade did an excellent job putting that sucker on.  After removing the crown, I had to endure the horrible grinding...

But maybe the most uncomfortable part of this procedure was sitting in the chair, waiting for the goopy stuff to harden enough to make a mold for my new crown.  ugh.  As I'm sitting in the chair, trying to NOT MOVE or SALIVATE....the dental assistant said,  "we had to look back at your old records to see when Dr. Glade did the original crown.."

Of course, I couldn't I just made a humming sound with my throat....the assistant prattled on..."Guess how long ago he did that crown."

Another guttural sound from me...I tried to make it sound like a question mark...because, of course, I HAD NO IDEA....

Then she said this,

 "He did that crown in 1981.  And then -- ELEVEN YEARS LATER - I was born..."

Monday, April 16, 2018

North Carolina Quilt Squares Guy

I love this story -- about a guy from North Carolina...I think I'm gonna have to incorporate some painted Quilt Squares into my life...

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Jeans Re-Style

On Thursdays, I pick Lilly up from school and take her into town to her "Acting Class". It's the program put on by the Davenport Parks and Recreation Department. I've talked about it before -- they have an excellent Children's Theater program -- one of the oldest in the country.

Anyway -- when I picked Lilly up, I was delighted that she was wearing her FAVORITE PANTS... which, of course, I'd made for her (from a pair of thrift store jeans that cost $1.00)
The key is you have to cut the leg open (on the inside seam).  Then, I basically ironed on the t-shirt fabric that had all the wild Picasso-like graphics.
From the back side -- I sewed around the faces and shapes BEFORE I cut away the denim on the front side.
THEN, after the knit fabric was stitched into place -- I cut away the denim from the front.
The more you wash them, the more fringy the denim gets. Lilly's favorite pants look all hairy now -- and SHE LOVES THEM...
This is an earlier pair I did for her...she was into shimmer at that time...

Friday, April 13, 2018

Wonderful Audio Book

Because I spend SO MUCH TIME IN MY CAR, I am always, ALWAYS, listening to an audio book. I've decided to blog about some of the GREAT books I've been listening to this winter. I'm going to start with this one -- The Sandcastle Girls by Chris Bohjalian.

First of all, Bohjalian is a WONDERFUL WRITER. So that's always good. But, secondly, this was a topic I absolutely knew nothing about. The genocide of the Armenian people in 1915.

1.5 million people were systematically murdered -- and the world stood by. Nobody objected, nobody stood entire villages were rounded up and murdered.  The men were decapitated, the women were raped.  Hundreds of thousands of Armenians were forcibly marched into the desert to die of starvation.

How is it possible that I have lived to be this old and never knew this happened?
Chris Bohjalian does a beautiful job of telling this story, but in a way that is fascinating -- not depressing.  He skillfully weaves together two narratives. One  about the way the world was in 1915, and the horror of the massacre. The other story is of a young American woman, who sees a 100 year old photograph of a starving, dying Armenian woman...and realizes they share the same last name...

If a last name ends with "ian" -- that person is most likely of Armenian descent. (I didn't even know that much before I read this book.)

So, yes, those Kardashian's ancestors are Armenian...and -- hey -- one of my all time favorites --

Cher was born Cherilyn Sarkisian...

But, I digress...

My point is -- this is a terrific read.  Or, in my case, a terrific "listen".  I found myself WANTING to get in my car so I could find out what happened next because I cared about the people in both stories.

Thank you, Chris Bohjalian.  It's official.  You're now one of my favorite writers.  Well done.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Nearly PERFECT Easter Dinner

In the world I live in, the Easter Dinner is a REALLY BIG COOKING DEAL. Honestly...I am hard pressed to think of a meal that is MORE WORK than this one.

My menu for the 2018 Farro Easter Dinner:

Potato salad (which only John likes)
Cheesy Hashbrowns (which everybody else loves)
Green Salad (pistachio pudding -- this is the SOLE REASON Iowans are mostly fat.)
Homemade rolls
Cowboy Baked Beans (with bacon AND burger)
Relish Tray
Lemon Meringue Pie
Coconut Cream Pie
Chocolate Bunny Cake

OF COURSE, I must get out the GOOD CHINA to set the table!!
AND this is the REASON I wanted Aunt Rozella's Silver -- right??
My hams are always SPECTACULAR. And this year may have been my best EVER!!
Lemon Meringue pie is Elliott's favorite...and, I'm telling you -- this thing is A LOT OF WORK..!!
Standing at the stove, whipping that lemon curd...pre-baking the pie crust, then, tempering the egg yolks...getting it all perfect, THEN making the meringue...putting the whole show together, getting it in the oven to brown the meringue. THIS TAKES SOME TIME, PEOPLE...!!

Even though I'd invited everybody to a 3:00 PM dinner...I was rushing around all day, trying to get things in order, and get the food all ready...the pie was NEARLY perfect...

But it wasn't quite brown enough...I'll turn the broiler on low -- one more minute and it'll be perfect....that first picture is from a Lemon Meringue pie I made two years ago...

THIS is the actual picture of the 2018 pie...

This is what four more minutes under a HIGH broiler looks like...
I pushed the wrong button and THEN forgot all about it.  I didn't remember the pie until the smoke alarm went off.  Damnit.  Epic Fail.

Oh well. These occasions are about the PEOPLE, not the FOOD -- right??

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

More Redundant Shopping

Yes, I buy the same things...over and over again....

Here's the deal. For my birthday, Elliott gave me the gift of NEW CARPETING.  Of course, that means I have to clean out the closets...and this was a big moment of awakening, people.  I mean -- do you want the truth?   The worthless little coat closet in my living room has been crammed with junk for over 30 years.  I believe the last time I looked in there was the year Ross graduated from high school (1996).  OMG. 


And, more importantly --  WHERE DID THE TIME GO??

At any rate, I AM READY.  It's time for me to really clean house, and get rid of some shit.

I decided to ease into the job -- and one day, when the kids were here, I said we needed to organize the "game case".  We'll figure out what games to keep -- and which ones to send back to the Goodwill store.   It is definitely time for me to reassess the things I collect. 


As it turns out, I buy this little letter cube game almost as often as I buy 100% cotton sheets...
There are many names for this game...
I also have at least a hundred jigsaw puzzles in the basement. (I don't have a picture, you'll just have to trust me).

We discovered six different boxes of Dominoes (which nobody has ever shown any interest in....but I apparently have this America's Got Talent vision in my head -- that one of the kids will want to build a gigantic Domino maize that will stun the world.  Hey, This Grandma is READY!!)....

But even with a complete understanding of my compulsive shopping nature...I was surprised at how many times I've bought my favorite game...


Of course, I have purchased every generation of this game.  I travel with it, I give it as gifts, my sisters all own the game, everybody in the TMBC has the game, I take it along on trips...
There's a Junior version...and a Music Version...
EVEN though I found most of these games at thrift stores, and paid less than $1.....Really, Rita -- how many of these can one family use?

What is a reasonable number of Catch-Phrase games a person should have in their game cupboard?

I'm guessing that number is somewhere south of 16..!!   Yes, SIXTEEN.  Ugh.  I'm gonna have to start a support group....

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Happy Birthday to ME..!!

One of the best things about the Bettendorf Library is that it has a privately-owned Coffee Shop/Cafe right on the premises. So, after four intense hours of sewing, we all went down there for our lunch break.

Sandy was the last one down for lunch...

Complete with CAKE AND CANDLES..!!
Homemade cards, funny cards...
Sewing charms
Wow. I was really shocked!! Just when I decided to NOT do my birthday anymore...I've had a complete change of heart.
I was DELIGHTED to have my friends throw me a birthday party. I'm a lucky, lucky be this old, to be this have this wonderful, full be able to walk, and talk, and travel and sew.

Birthdays are a way to take measure...not just of how old you are, but of how many people you have in your life. I heard from so many people who really matter to me. Thank you all for making my life worth living. John, my sons, my friends, my sisters and brother, my cousins, my nieces and nephews...Lilly and Warren.

Yes. Life is Good...

Today, I'm getting up at 4:00 AM to get on a plane. I gave myself a very special trip as a birthday present...but you'll have to wait until next week to hear about that...

Monday, April 9, 2018

Quilt As You Go


To review -- In February of 2016, the TMBC ALL got involved in the fabulous internet sew-a-long, the Splendid Sampler. I posted the results of those weekly blocks every Wednesday for A SOLID YEAR... (there were TWO new designs every week)...

Week after week -- Linda P. and Sandy never missed a single block...they stayed with it FOR THE ENTIRE YEAR. It was so much fun to have a "Sew and Tell" every week as a part of our TMBC breakfast.

Unfortunately, I was not so devoted. I gave it a good shot, and I learned a lot...but for me, one of the big lessons was that I am not a quilter.

However, at the end of the year, I had (more or less) completed 50 blocks...and, Linda P. kindly gifted me 29 of her rejects (which were all perfect, incidentally) I actually DO have enough blocks to MAKE A REAL QUILT. (if I put it together just right...)

I packed up my blocks and headed to our first TMBC Sew-in for 2018. The room at the Bettendorf Library was SO PERFECT.

We each had our own 6' table and a very large workspace.
At the end of a VERY LONG DAY -- with a lot of help from my friends -- I actually figured out, AT LAST, how to put this sucker together using the Quilt-As-You-Go method...!!
I laid out my completed blocks. Each one of my SS blocks has a piece of flannel on the back. Sometimes, I sewed around the designs...other times, I sewed a big "X". But that flannel piece provides the warmth and weight for the quilt...
Then, I cut the squares that would become the BACK of my quilt
The trick is to SEW THE BACKER SQUARES in a row....(they are 2" bigger than the SS blocks)
That creates a 1" seam...and, AFTER I position the SS block, I'm gonna fold those raw edges UNDER...get it??
Folding under those raw edges of the backer fabric, also covers the raw edges of the SS blocks.  At this point, I am simply pressing everything into position.
I clipped and/or pinned the SS blocks to keep things in place.
I carefully worked one row at a time.
The next step is to topstitch those folded edges.
I rolled the strip, and began topstitching the seams.  The strip (of 8 blocks) unrolled as I worked my way through the blocks...
This is what a finished row looked like.
I had intended for the BACK of the quilt to be a checkerboard pattern (but at this point, I had a few issues to deal with)
Some of my blocks turned out great.
Others had some issues.
But -- PUT ALL TOGETHER -- it's going to be A.M.A.Z.I.N.G...

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Our Singer Featherweight Library DAY

So, we scheduled the first 2018 Featherweight the beautiful Bettendorf Library!!
This library has several large public rooms that are available for -- get this -- $5 a day!!
We brought our breakfast...
Then, we set up our sewing stations.  We all brought our own projects...
The ironing station.
The room is HUGE!!  Seriously -- all this space for just $5 a day??  WE ARE SOO LUCKY..!!  LP was working on the t-shirt quilts for her graduating grandsons.
We each had our own area to spread out!! IT'S SO PERFECT...
Guess what project I'm going to be working on???
Do you recognize these blocks??