Jul 29, 2010

Why blog?

Recently several of my blogger buddies are either closing down their blogs or taking a break. This has led me to ask myself the question, "Why do I blog?"

I have seen some of the comments around the blogosphere, and I know that some people set a goal of reaching fifty or more followers. Others get discouraged if there are not frequent comments made on their posts. Sometimes bloggers run dry in their creativity and just need a break. Most of the time I think it is a matter of life just getting too busy to keep up the way they want, so they just give up. I'm sure there are other reasons that people quit blogging that I'm not aware of.

I started blogging in February of 2009. Blogging has opened up a whole new world for me. I really feel it is a gift from God. I've always wanted to write, but never really had an outlet. Blogging has become a very inexpensive hobby, and has blessed me with new friendships from all over the country, and once in a while, from other places in the world as well.

I've learned a lot along the way. One of the hardest lessons I've learned is how public the blogosphere is. I've learned this is not like writing in a personal diary. I've regretted some of the posts I've written. Hopefully I've learned to use greater sensitivity. I think blogging has sharpened me and has made me think more about my potential audience, not just about myself.

While I enjoy comments, I don't find my self-worth in whether or not I receive them. I once thought it was important to have a lot of followers, and it was exciting each time someone new showed up on my page. Soon I realized that it was more meaningful to me to have a few blogging friends who I connected with fairly regularly than to have 40 or 50 faces on my page who I really know nothing about.

My daughter-in-law once told me that more people read your blog than you are aware of. They just don't leave comments. I have found this is true...Every now and then I run into someone who tells me they read my blogs, or it comes up in a social setting.

I'm sure there are as many reasons that people blog as there are different personalities. And if you maintain more than one blog, usually it is because each serves a different purpose or a different audience. My main blog, "life between the buns" is a documentation of the stage of life I am living right now. I try to think how blessed I would be if I had access to this kind of information about my own parents or grandparents. It sort of says, "this is my life" and maybe someday my children or grandchildren will be interested in what my daily life was like.

My "mistress of my domain" blog zeros in more specifically about my personality as I am basically a homebody and have loved being a wife, homemaker, mother, and now grandma. I also enjoy mentoring younger women and while I'll never leave a huge mark upon the world, I enjoy passing on things I've learned on the homefront. The title comes from an in-depth Bible study I took years ago, and have actually taught a few times, called The Five Aspects of Woman. It was a life-changing study for me which helped me once and for all accept who I am as a beloved daughter of God, and revel in my femininity. (I think I'll blog about that sometime!)

The third blog I have, gingersnaps and black licorice, is basically a tribute to my dad, who left me the gift of many notes of his life story in his own words. Family was everything to him, and this blog is my way of sharing it with anyone who might be interested, especially family members and posterity.

So, I'm curious. Why do you blog?

Jul 27, 2010

pineapple, anyone?

A few posts back I mentioned that I collect pineapples. Have a look by clicking here.

Jul 26, 2010

the good old days...

I'm going to get off the "food channel" soon, but just for fun I thought I'd post this menu. It is from 1957, when I was 8 years old. We had a Woolworth's within walking distance in our home town, ("walking distance being about 12 city blocks and of course we walked!) and I can remember sitting at the lunch counter and seeing those huge German Chocolate Cakes on a pretty plate with a clear glass cover. This menu says a slice was 15 cents. A toasted 3 decker chicken salad sandwich is the most expensive item on the menu at 65 cents. A king-size coke is 10 cents! I also remember being served with a smile, and how leaving a few coins by your plate was an acceptable tip. Bring back some memories?

Jul 23, 2010

Where's the coffee???!!

photo found here

Is it just me? All I really want first thing in the morning is a good cup of coffee. The kind you get at nice restaurants with white linen tablecloths and served in a china cup and saucer. Is that too much to ask? I don't consider myself an excessive caffeine addict--I could do with a couple good cups in the morning and maybe one for a pick up in mid-afternoon.

But I am fussy about how it tastes. Not too weak, not too strong, not too bitter, and it HAS to be hot. Really hot.

I have tried so many different coffee pots over the years, and so many different kinds of coffee. Mr. Coffee's, Starbuck's Barista, you name it. I'm tempted to buy an old-fashioned percolator even though they are ugly, because the do make decent coffee. I think Farberware has one. None of the drip styles I've owned get hot enough for my liking. And ALL the carafe's are hard to pour without dripping. (One of our favorite gripes around the house is "they put a man on the moon decades ago, but they can't design a coffee carafe that doesn't drip!)

Right now, we are using a Keurig coffee brewer that makes one cup at a time. We bought one as a mutual Valentine's present this year. I love the fact that it is quick, I don't waste coffee by making a whole pot when I only want a cup or two, and that it is the hottest home-brewed coffee I've ever had. On the down side, even when I use coupons, the coffee is expensive--about 50 cents a cup. (I know that's not expensive compared to buying a $2.00 cup at Starbucks, but it's not very economical if you have guests and you can easily go through 60 cups in a week!)

I'm a bit nervous because we are actually on our THIRD Keurig coffee maker. The first one lasted three weeks, then started producing only partial cups. When I called the Company to see if I was doing something wrong, they very graciously told me obviously something wasn't right and they were sending me another coffee maker right away. The second one lasted three months. Then suddenly it started refusing to move the water from the holding reservoir to the area where the water heats. Again, I called the Company and this time they kept me on the phone for 45 minutes trying this and that. Finally they agreed to send me another coffee maker, provided I sent them a part from the brewer. It's been working perfectly so far--we are at the 3 week mark--so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

My older son, Andy, who IS a genuine coffee snob (*wink and smile*) insists that a French press is the only authentic way to go. I have one of those too. I admit the coffee tastes good made that way and the first pouring is nice and hot. But oh my, it is much to cumbersome for multiple cups, especially if you are serving more than one or two people. You have to boil the water, which would be to 212 degrees F, then stick a thermometer in the water and let it cool to about 185-195 degrees. You have to be very finicky about the amount of grounds you are using and they must be coarse. Andy has a friend who actually fingers through his beans, taking out all the broken ones, before he puts them into the grinder. (you read that right!) If all that isn't enough, once you pour your almost-boiling (filtered) water into the press carafe, you wait 60 seconds, then you carefully do a stir. After you wait exactly three more minutes (you must use a timer, no guessing allowed) then and only then are you ready to press the coffee and pour yourself a cup. I mean, who has time for this in the morning? Finally, you are left with a messy French press to clean by pouring some water into the carafe and then straining it through a sieve so you can toss the grounds into the trash, which of course you need to do right away because you need to make more coffee!

Now, I do use filtered water for our coffee. And we do grind our beans. We don't usually have Starbucks brand in the house (it's usually too strong and bitter for us, as well as being expensive). Keurig offers a nice variety of decent coffees, and we do enjoy several of the brands. For our everyday coffee, we often use Eight O'Clock. I can get good bargains by hunting down coupons. This morning I had a really good couple of cups of Seattle's Best "Henry's Blend" coffee. I paid a little too much for it, but someone talked me into trying it at Border's the other night. I am actually quite surprised at how good it is. I made it in our Mr. Coffee, so I still had the problem of only the first cup being hot enough for my taste.

So, WHO can rescue me from my dilemma? I'd love to hear how other coffee lovers are handling their affair!

Jul 20, 2010

Choosing Your Family Motto

I saw this You Tube video on Face Book and I just thought it was a neat idea--a family motto.

I actually just gave my daughter-in-law, Joanna, a plaque with these words on it for her birthday this month. I had seen in her Face Book profile that she "loved" this saying...

What are some of the sayings you have around your home? Just looking around here, I see "God Bless this Home and All Who Enter" and "Prayer Changes Things". Those are mottos with actual "words".

I never really thought about it, but what we surround ourselves with in our homes really DOES make a statement about us, doesn't it? And it doesn't have to be a motto with words. For example:

Our living room walls have a copy of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Declaration of Independence, as well as a large print of an 1819 painting by John Trumbull, "The Signing of the Declaration of Independence", a collection of Avon cobalt blue goblets with Martha and George on them from our country's Bicentennial year (1976) as well as several blue & white plates commemorating the same. In my foyer is a large print of George Washington.

Throughout our house, but especially in our dining room and kitchen, we have pineapples. The pineapple has been a symbol of hospitality since early colonial days, when only the wealthy could afford to have them, and they were served to guests as a special treat.

It wouldn't take long for any house guest to figure out that we are Christians. Our end tables and bookshelves are stacked with Bibles and other Christian literature, both classic and contemporary.

My kitchen would never be mistaken for a museum and anyone who visits can tell I like to cook. I call it my "working" kitchen.

We have one spare room with a double bed, and another with a set of twin beds and a crib. Since by definition we are actually "empty nesters," maintaining our (now) spare rooms says "guests are always welcome!"

Last but not least, our backyard has a swing set and a sandbox. A corner in our family room is dedicated to children's toys. Our car has two child seats in the back. Yes, we are involved grandparents.

What do the things in your home say about you?

Jul 14, 2010

Lichi-Vitale Famiglia Riunione - July 10, 2010

My father's side of the family has a reunion every two years. Our first one was back in 1987, then we had a big birthday party for my grandma's 90th in 1990...and ever since we've gotten together bi-annually. How do you like our family logo? The pizza man was drawn by my father years ago and he just kind of stuck around. The other part of the logo was just officially added this year, designed by my cousin, John Fullerton. Two years ago we actually had a "new logo" contest with several designs entered. There ended up being a "tie" between a new design and keeping the old one...so this new logo is a combination of both. I love it, and I love what it says about the spirit of cooperation in our family to honor the past while embracing the next generation.

Back in April, my hubby and I hosted a committee planning meeting at our house. This year was the first time the "second generation" Americans -- me, my siblings & cousins, were totally in charge of planning the reunion. My mom attended to help us in the transition, so there were 12 of us altogether.

One of the unique things that we have is a Family Information Book. One of my aunts, Coni Lichi, started this years ago, and she has faithfully updated it for every reunion. The way it works is when a family member turns 18, they get their own book, and bi-annual updates. The looseleaf book contains names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. It also contains an almanac with interesting family facts such as "youngest bride", "most grandchildren", "most popular middle name", "longevity in marriage", a special page noting all who have served in our country's military, and so forth. Everyone is also encouraged to provide updates on their families since the previous reunion, such as births, graduations, passings, or just what your kids are up to. One of the changes the next generation has brought to the table is putting all this information on a CD.

After the initial planning meeting each reunion year, a newsletter goes out to everyone with basic information about the upcoming events. In this transition year, we tried sending it as an email attachment to those who do email, and continued to send it by snail mail to those who don't. We have a few bugs to work out before the next reunion, but we are pressing on to do as much electronically as possible to save time and money.

We traditionally hold our reunions on even numbered years, the first Saturday after the 4th of July. We rent a lodge at a park in our home town which is air-conditioned and also has plenty of room on the grounds for games and it also has a supervised wading pool for the kids.

Something new we added for the first time this year was an adults-only wine-tasting party on Friday night of the reunion weekend. It was held at my sister Barb's house and everyone brought their favorite bottle of wine or a non-alcoholic beverage to share, and a snack or appetizer.

About 30 of the family members came. Youngest in attendance was my niece, Sarah, 21...pictured here with my mom, 81.

and oldest in attendance was my aunt Angie, 91! She and my daughter-in-law Ellie are puttiing out some snacks.

The rain let up just in time for us to be outside and enjoy my sister's lovely yard...

See those huge leaves? That is a fig tree, and not just any fig tree! Clippings have been preserved from my grandfather's tree from decades ago, and several family members keep the trees alive through NE Ohio winters by bending them down and burying them in leaves to protect them. They produce good figs every year. Once the trees get too large to bend and bury each winter, they will die...so we just keep taking shoots and replanting them, keeping the trees relatively small and manageable.

Some of the fun things we do on reunion day are:

Spaghetti sauce contest! This is the second time we have done it and it is a big hit. Whoever wants to enter simply brings their sauce in a crockpot, and we line them up in the kitchen of the lodge. There are little pieces of bread to be dipped in the sauces for tasting, and a place to cast your vote. Last reunion, I won the Boss of the Sauce award, but this year my brother Bob beat me out!

Dessert Contest! My sister Barb and my niece Sarah have been sponsoring this for a number of years. They randomly pick judges from attendees, who at the appointed time don their aprons and walk around sampling the dessert table. (Nasty job, but someone has to do it!)

From left: my brother, Don Lichi, cousin John's wife, Mindy Fullerton, and my cousin Dave Scichilone.

I mean, how could they possibly choose?? The first place winner was that peach pie in the front of the photo, made by my second cousin, Dave Vitale. Second place went to the 4th item in the front row, which was a lemon raspberry cake made from scratch by my cousin's daughter, Jillian Fullerton. Third place went to Joanna Stager, my daughter-in-law, for her raspberry tiramisu, the third dessert in the front row.

My sister, Barb Jochum, announcing the dessert contest winners!

Here's Dave with his 1st place ribbon and empty pie plate!

Children's crafts! This year, my cousin's daughter, Jessica Chalk, (who happens to be getting married this Sunday in Washington State!) provided crafts for kids under age 12. Here they are, painting light weight back packs...

Jessica and my granddaughter, Elylah, demonstrating how they can paint their hand prints...

Janaye and her second cousin Samantha, working on their projects...

Guessing games! This tradition has been around for quite a while. Whoever wants to brings a guessing game and they are all layed out on a table. Whoever guesses the the number of items in the jar wins the jar of goodies. Usually it is candy or peanuts, but sometimes it is coins!

My cousin's daughter Janaye won this container of M&M's for making the closest guess as to how many there were. She's in her bathing suit because she was swimming in the wading pool.

The raffle! Our reunions are funded by our raffles. The raffle has grown in volume and quality of items over the years and the drawing for winners is a really fun part of the day. This year, I made decorative and disposable bags with a slit in the back for raffle tickets, the tickets having been made by my cousin John. Family members voluntarily bring items to go into the raffle, mostly hand crafted things or theme baskets, such as home canned goods from the garden, or an inspirational basket with candles, tea, books, etc. Folks have plenty of time to purchase the tickets at 6 for $5.00 and write their names on them, then place them into the numbered bag by the item that want to try to win.

My cousin Jodi Jones and her daughter Madison scanning over the items. Gulp! What's Uncle John doing with a knife in his hand??

My sister, Marcella, putting a ticket in the bag as she hopes to win Rita's basket of home canned sauces from her garden, as well as home made bread. Here's a better picture of the items:

We also include a raffle for the children. Here is a madras belt made by my daughter-in-law, Ellie...and won by my grandson Ethan!

That's my dad's cousin's wife, Jan Vitale, showing the belt before the winner was called.

Jan and her daughter-in-law, Rita Vitale, take responsiblity for setting up the raffle items and calling the winners. My cousin's son, Braxton, is a helper.

I am about to win this beautiful Christmas throw, hand made by my sister-in-law, Lynn Lichi...

My mom got a little emotional as she was winning just about everything her heart desired...

And here is Aunt Angie,

who just won this!

a beautiful hand quilted bedspread made by my mother-in-law, Olena Stager (left), who is 84 years old.

We have so many items to raffle off, that this year we decided to intersperse some entertainment with the drawings...here is my older son, Andy, playing and singing...

Uncle John telling some jokes...

And 12 year old Dominick playing keyboard...

Outdoor games! A big part of our reunions has always been outdoor games, both for the children and the adults. Several reunions back, we had to move from a different park we used to rent because the shelter house got too small for our growing family. But the grounds were more private and for a couple reunions, one of the family members brought their pony and the kids got free rides! We also had outdoor ping-pong tournaments. Before that, we had a few reunions at our parents'/grandparents' church, and at that time the reunions were held in the fall, so there were organized football games on the grounds, which we called "The Spaghetti Bowl". The park we use now is more in the city, with lots of shady trees, but there is still room for bocce and cornhole. These tournaments are organized and come with creative home-made "trophies"!

Here's my brother-in-law, Rodney and nephew, Michael...

from left: Dave, Marcella, Mike...

And the champs, holding their golden bags, Bob & Lynn...

Now bocce is quite the serious sport...Here's my brother, Don, his wife Marcie, and my sister Cindy looking over the grass court...

My cousin John ready to roll, while my nephews Adam and Robby look on...

Hubby Bob in action:

Sam and his dad were a team...

This is the part that always cracks me up...

And the winners are...

Brother Bob presents the trophies to winners Cindy and Connie, while father and son
look on...I think it was great they made it all the way to the finals!

My dad made this bean bag toss game for the kids years and years ago. I did my heart good to show it to my grandson, Deacon, and show him how to play!

Freebie Table! My dear Aunt Josephine who passed away not long after our last reunion in '08 at the age of 90 started a white elephant table many years ago. Family members bring in items of all kinds that they no longer want but that someone else might. Aunt Jo was an avid garage sale shopper, specializing in books, so it was only natural for her to establish a way we could trade stuff with each other! Anyone is free to take anything from the table. Can't get much more of a bargain than that!

Cotton Candy/Popcorn/Snow Cones anyone? We've done all of these at various times for the kids. There's just something extra exciting about being able to walk up to one of these machines and get a carnival-like snack for "free"...Here I am with Deacon, getting ready to set up the popcorn machine this year...


In addition to the spaghetti sauce (and spaghetti to go with it) and the fabulous desserts, we always have some really good fried chicken. Those are the staples! Then there are tables full of casseroles, veggies, salads, fruit...all those wonderful homemade picnic style foods that always seem to taste better when someone "else" makes them! Trust me, no one goes away hungry!

Memento! For many reunions now, if not all of them, we have had some kind of commerative item that folks can purchase to take home. We've had things like T-shirts, ball caps, decorative plates, printed plastic mugs, etc. (I actually had a collection of every item at one time, but I boxed them up and put them into the raffle a few years back!) This year we had a choice of these mugs with our new logo on them...The ceramic mug and spoon set was only $6 and the stainless steel travel mug was only $7.50.

Monday morning brunch...Back in 1996 a new tradition started when I invited all the ladies who were still around after reunion weekend to my house for a brunch. This year, the brunch was held at Leslie Vitale's beautiful home. It is always a relaxing time to sit around and reminisce, and said our good-byes till next time!


So now, dear blogger friends, you know why I have been "missing in action" for a couple of weeks. It's been a very busy time, and my SC family was here for a whole week as well. There were about 80 in attendance at the reunion this year...a very good number though we were missing many family members who weren't able to make it. Family is such a blessing, and a real gift from God. My hubby likes to say we are all about fun, food, faith, fellowship, and fertility! He grew up as an only child without any real extended family around. I just can't imagine not having all these grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews enriching my life.

I would love to hear what some of you do for your family gatherings. We are always open to new ideas and suggestions. Please share with me!!