Sunday, February 22, 2015

February Fun

This month has been one hectic month due to all the holidays. First one was Ground Hog Day. Then came Lincoln’s Birthday which was also my husband’s birthday. Then came Valentine’s Day with all its hearts and flowers. Then President’s Day a national holiday. After that came Fat Tuesday known as Mardi Gras a holiday filled with parades, colorful beads and yummy goodies to eat. Right on its heels came the Chinese New Year; the Year of the Sheep. WOW! So now that all these holidays and festivities are over for a while, todays’ blogpost will focus on each of the aforementioned holidays.
Ground Hog Day came and went, leaving us with another six weeks of winter, and boy did it snow, especially in Boston. Some people still can’t find their cars. And you can bet your bottom dollar that when Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, he retreated back into his warm burrow to wait winter out. Smart guy! And though I would like to have had and kept something from Ground Hog’s Day in our Family Museum, the only thing we have is the movie. And this is by far one of my husband’s favorite movie. He even watches it when it isn’t Ground Hog Day!

Lincoln’s Birthday is a special day for our family because it is also Keith’s Birthday, and this year was a special event because he can now retire, but of course, he won’t. Of the gifts he received, I doubt any of them will go into the Family Museum, except more shelving which he will make using his new router.
Valentine’s Day is one holiday that is filled with emotion. I feel this day serves up good intentions for all to recognize, be it one special person or many, that they have a special part in your heart and to express those feelings, be it with a box of candy, beautiful flowers, a wonderful dinner, and cards and letters of loving words.  Love is important and should be acknowledged every day, not just Valentine’s Day.   
President’s Day is another day of recognition for our esteemed presidents. When I grew up, we didn’t have this holiday. We had Lincoln and Washington Days of which I can honestly say meant that we got those days off from school. I can’t recall it being celebrated any other way, except we had to read and write about our American President’s as school assignments. But we do have something in our Family Museum that shows our respect for our country’s leaders.
My husband has a Ronald Ragan Doll. I bought it for him on a Presidents Day. The talking action figure has a 4 minute audio chip that speaks 33 different phrases in the President’s own voice, such as this quote. "I hope we have once again reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited. There's a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: as government expands, liberty contracts."     

Mardi Gras is a holiday and often serves as a festive occasion. It is also known as Shrove Tuesday, as it is the last day before the long fast for Lent for many Christians. It is also known as Fat Tuesday and features large festivals and celebrations across the United States. The Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans is typical of the masquerades and dancing in the streets. Being raised Catholic, I remember how my family had to fast during Lent. Not wanting to give up anything, I did not enjoy not having any candy. And I wish I knew the holiday was celebrated in New Orleans. So to make up for all that I didn’t know, our family enjoys making King Cake and a casserole of beans, rice, and sausage. YUM!
Chinese New Year! Now this is a lot of fun. I am really surprised how many people I meet are not aware of this form of astrology. They all seem to enjoy reading their daily horoscopes in the newspaper, but that is only one type of many astrology’s. To help understand it, the essence of this divination is how the character of the animal who governs the year in which you were born is the spirit that lives in your soul. Just by observing that animal, I bet you could pick up some of its traits that are similar to yours.
Such as I was born in the Year of the Tiger. I am very protective of my family and can be quite ferocious if I need to be. My husband was born in the Year of the Ox. He is steadfast and strong. My daughter was born in the Year of the Dog. Defender and protector of her home and family. And Charlie, born in the Year of the Rabbit, is lovable and at times playful. When you put us all together, we are a hoot and a holler. With a snort, a roar, a bark and a thump of his foot, we make great music together.
So for this last week this month, I hope things will be a little less rowdy and I can get some work done, like blogging a bit more often.
Till next blog, have fun in February!

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Happy Birthday!

Today is my husband, Keith, 65th Birthday. When he woke up this morning, he said he looks just as good as he did yesterday. And he’s right! Today is also President Lincoln’s Birthday. FYI, here are seven little-known facts about Honest Abe: 
1. Lincoln ran for U.S. Senate 
    twice (1854 & 1858) but lost
    both times.  
2. He served in the Illinois General
    Assembly as a member of the Whig Party before he joined 
    the newly formed Republican Party.  
3. He didn't win a single Southern state in his 1860 presidential
4. He established the country's first income tax.
5. He re-structured his second inaugural address just before
     delivering the speech by literally cutting and pasting it into a
     new format.
6. He is estimated to have only received a total of 18 months of
     formal education. 
7. Before he was president, he was an attorney and lobbyist for
     the Illinois Central Railroad.

Lincoln and Keith have many similarities. First and foremost, both are Humanitarians, altruistic and compassionate. They care about community and mankind, concerned with the good of all than the good of one. They march to the sound of their own off-beat drum, and dare to go where the rest of us wouldn't even have the vision to see, revolutionizing itself towards its own new utopia. Keith always felt it an honor to be born on the same day as Lincoln. And when he was little, he thought everyone was celebrating his birthday because kids got the day off from school!
Keith’s mom was very fond of Lincoln. She said he was her favorite President, and that is saying something because she lived to be 104 years old and had seen a lot of presidents. So when Keith was born on Lincoln’s Birthday, she was thrilled. And many a birthday cake she made him always had this little china Log Cabin and log with ax on top of his cake.  
His mom also had this picture of Lincoln with
his son “Tad” hanging in her bedroom. One
day I found the same picture and Keith has it
hanging in his office. Like Lincoln, Keith is a
wonderful father and loves spending time with
 his son Charlie and daughter Tiffeni.
So here’s to my husband and wishing him a marvelous birthday!
Happy Birthday Honey


Tuesday, February 10, 2015


This week I will post about collections. What are collections? It is a process of gathering, accumulating, assembling, and bringing together like-wise articles of interest, such as my Feather Art.  Here’s a bit of history.       
Mexican Feather Art      
It is well known that birds have a prominent place in Aztec mythology and Mexican history. The Mexican symbol is in itself represented by an Eagle perched on top of a cactus devouring a snake. History speaks that this was the fulfillment of the Aztec prophecy for the location of their capital on the present site of Mexico City. Quetzalcoatl, known also as the feathered serpent of the Aztec tribe, was a light-skinned deity who is said to have taught the Toltec’s their art and craft, and is still considered as the evening star that constantly watches over them. Cortés, the Spanish conqueror of Mexico speaks many a great thing of the feathered jewels of the Aztecs. The last Aztec Prince by the name of Cuauhtemoc (EAGLE THAT FALLS) brought about the final battle against the invaders, who burned his feet unsuccessfully persuading him to reveal the whereabouts of a great treasure. 
Suzanne Muchnic, Times Staff Writer Los Angele Times wrote on Oct 14, 2007: Feathers have come to roost in art and ethnographic museums because many cultures have conferred great value on them. Symbolizing fertility, abundance, riches and power, they have been used as currency or tribute and have been incorporated into ceremonial attire, ritual objects and decorative arts. But the feathers themselves haven’t had a lot of respect in the modern Euro-centric art world. Latin American feather art was in great demand by the Spanish conquistadors who took spectacular examples back to Europe. As Catholicism spread in the New World, the art form was adapted to Christian subject matter, liturgical objects and ecclesiastic vestments. Many of the best pieces were given to popes, kings and noblemen who shared them with an appreciative audience. No less than French 18th century philosopher Voltaire praised Mexican craftsmanship, including featherwork, for having “the most beautiful patterns with the variety of their colors and tones.
How is Mexican Feather Art Created
The feather bird art requires great skill, imagination, a lot of patience and an artistic touch to recapture the glamour of the millions of exotic birds as colorful and charming as their multicolored ancestors. It is a slow process to dress up a paper pattern, starting with the tiniest feathers for the head and gradually increasing in feather size as the body is completed and finishing with the largest feathers forming the magnificent tail. The finished picture vividly recalls the dynamic color and haunting songs of the birds that lived and sang in the ancient forest of Mexico so long ago. 
The hand carved cedar frames 
are as traditional as the birds themselves and stands for patient work, artistic taste and a tradition as colorful as the multicolored plumes of the bird. The distinctive carved patterns are repeated in frame after frame with at least five or six different patterns and are the result of very patient and skillful hand work, which require painful manual labor.  Although feathers of wild fowl are no longer used, the selection of the various qualities let you hear the haunting songs of birds in ancient forests of mysterious beauty which still hold something of that mystifying beauty. 
My collection started with my mother’s purchase she made when she went to Mexico with her sister on her honeymoon in 1945.  She passed it onto me after I married. Since then I collected many more and always on the lookout for others. Here’s a bit of history.
As Margaret Aspegren stated in “The Joys & Pitfalls of Collecting” I quote: “The hobbyists who gain the most from their hobby are probably not the ones who collect for profit but for the love of the item sought.” Margaret describes me perfectly. It is impossible to portray my feelings each time I see a different Mexican Feather Bird picture at a garage sale and then discover the price is only a few dollars. WOW! May the hunt continue!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Friday Feature

In my previous Friday Feature posted on April 14, 2014, I wrote about Genealogical Research. I listed several items that you might find around your home that can help you create your genealogical history, which then can be translated into a Family Tree.
As you traverse your family’s landscapes, one of the best ways to get you started is by having your own DNA analyzed. There are two programs and I suggest that you read about each one. They offer two different perspectives, both educational and informative. Whatever your needs and desires are as your search for your family history, you will find that the more you search, the more you will find.

This Christmas, my family gave me Ancestry’s DNA Kit. I completed the test on January 7th and two weeks later, was sent an e-mail informing me that my DNA was in the process of being analyzed. I will received another email when the testing is completed. I am very excited about this because my family history is sketchy at best. Hardly any records were kept by both my father (Lithuanian) and mother (Italian), so all I had to go by were stories and photographs. Therefore, this analysis will help me find out who I am.  
Discover your ethnicity, Connect with new relatives, Family history is in our DNA

Get your kit with easy-to-follow instructions. Send in your kit with a small saliva sample. Experts analyze your DNA within 6-8 weeks. Discover your heritage, cousins, and more online.

For my husband’s birthday, we gave him the Genographic Project Participation “Geno 2.0” DNA Ancestry kit.  Though his mother’s family (Norwegian) was quite astute about tracing their heritage, his father’s (German) side did the opposite. After completing the test he was gob smacked to find out how far his family traveled over the centuries’. This new DNA test uses cutting-edge technology to give you the richest ancestry information available. By participating, you will:
•  Discover the migration paths your ancient ancestors followed hundreds—even thousands—   of years ago, with an unprecedented view of your ancestral journey.
•  Learn what percentage of your genome is affiliated with specific regions of the world.
•  Find out if you have Neanderthal or Denisovan ancestry.
•  Have the opportunity to share your story and connect with other Genographic Project participants, helping us fill in the gaps in the human story.

The search for family history as given birth to not only DNA studies, but television shows as well. Here are two that my family watches and each is both educational and edifying.

Finding Your Roots (2012)noted Harvard scholar Henry Louis Gates, Jr. has been helping people discover long-lost relatives hidden for generations within the branches of their family trees.  Professor Gates utilizes a team of genealogists to reconstruct the paper trail left behind by our ancestors and the world’s leading geneticists to decode our DNA and help us travel thousands of years into the past to discover the origins of our earliest forebears.

Who Do You Think You Are? Is an American genealogy documentary series that premiered on NBC on March 5, 2010. Each week a celebrity goes on a journey to trace his or her family tree. Lisa Kudrow is an executive producer for the series, which is a partnership between Shed Media, NBC Entertainment and The series has since been picked up by TLC and has renewed the show for a sixth season which will premiere on March 8, 2015.
So now you have the tools, instructions and guidance to start planting your family roots that will develop into a might tree that will continue to grow as long as you take care of it. Start today and have fun!

  Next Week Posts: Collections

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Thursday Toys

Can you remember your favorite toys? Can you recall what toys you received on your birthdays and Christmas? Do you think you had too many toys or not enough of the toys you really wanted? Were your toys new or hand-me-downs? Did you respect your toys? Most importantly, did you save any of your toys?
In my husband’s and my side of our Family Museum, there are a few toys compared to our children’s side, where there is many times more toys. Now if you compare our side of the museum to the Grandparents Museum, there are virtually no toys. What kind of statement does that make? At first you might think sad, but it should not be presumed that they did not have toys. I am sure they had a few precious ones. What the sad aspect of this statement is that none of their toys were saved! 
I recall my dad saying he had a toy train. Where did it go? I remember my mom talking about a baby doll she called Teedle-Lumps. There is a poor photograph of it, but that too has disappeared. My husband recalls is father having sling shots and hunting rabbits with it. He remembers his mom had dolls her sister and she would play with, but not to be had now. However, in all this where-are-they-now, one toy was extremely cared for and given to my husband when his mom passed away at the age of 104.
This hand-made doll cradle was made of pine and fir wood and given to my husband’s Great Aunt Gitta when she was 4 years old in 1870 in Tromso, Norway. It traveled with her to the United States where the family settled in Artichoke, Minnesota. There it stayed until it was passed down to my husband’s mother in Illinois.  When she passed away in 2007, it was passed down to my husband here in Virginia. Can you figure out how many miles this cradle has traveled and how old it is. If you do the math, it traveled 5,194 miles and is 145 years old. WOW! Now that’s what I called preservation!

Next Post: Friday Feature

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wednesday Wishes

I wish I would have kept __________ (fill in the blank). I wonder where __________ (fill in the blank). If only I had kept __________ (fill in the blank). I wish I knew . . . you get the picture.

How many times have you asked yourself questions like these? Or how about this scenario: you are perusing an antique store. You spot something you recall your aunt had, or maybe your grandmother used. Suddenly, you are in the room with your aunt watching her try on a new hat she just bought. Or you are in the kitchen with your grandmother and she hands you that heavy rolling pin and instructs you to roll out the pie dough.  Should of, would of, could of.  
These are the wishes I am purporting today. The fill-in-the-blank examples are here to give you the model for setting up an outline that will help you create a list of items you may want to buy to start or add to your museum.
For example: my father loved to thumb through the 971 page (1966 issue) or more of both the Sears Roebuck and Montgomery Ward catalogs. I can remember him sitting at the kitchen table, the radio playing softly in the background, and a cup of coffee getting cold as he got engrossed in the catalog, particularly the tools. Dad couldn’t have enough tools! And if it wasn’t for my perspicacious and astute daughter, who at the young age of 12, spotted these musty, rag-tagged catalogs in my parents’ attic and saved them. I certainly was not as perceptive as she was at that age. Probably because there were so many of these humongous catalogs around the house, I could care less about preserving them. But as time went by and these behemoth tomes eventually became obsolete, whatever remains of these once cherished books is all there is now and forever. So when I find one, I thumb through it and wish I was back at the kitchen table watching my father dream.  .  . of tools.   
I wish I had even just one more picture of my nana and nonno. But this is the only one I have. Elisabetha and Anthony immigrated from Italy in the 1890s’, traveling in steerage on one of the hundreds of ships that set sail from ports of Italy, arriving at Ellis Island and other ports-of-call in the United States. Settling in Chicago, nonno work on the railroad and nana ran a grocery       store. They raised 13 children, several went to college and became teachers, one served in WWI, and one was a big-band leader. Not bad for coming to America with a few bags and trunks. So I cherish this picture and a few more found through the years that I will share with you when I post about our Grandparents Museum.
So what are your Wednesday wishes? As Eleanor Roosevelt said, “It takes as much energy to wish as it does to plan.”


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Tuesday Treasures

I asked my husband what was one of the many keepsakes he treasured in our family museum. He did not hesitate a moment when he picked up this little boy doll, not quite 8 inches tall. He has on a Chinese motif red jacket (safety-pinned on) over black pants. The reason why this little guy is so beloved is because when Keith was a little boy, he went to his older sister’s home for the day and there they made together the outfit he has been wearing for over 55 years. His sister Karan was learning how to sew and she thought it would be a good idea to teach her little brother the same. Not only does Keith cherish the memory, he does the same with this little doll. Who said boys shouldn’t play with dolls!

In 1975 I worked at the Harris Bank in Chicago distributing the soon-to-be-famous “Hubert the Harris Lion.” Hubert was the mascot and one of Chicago’s most recognized and beloved icons. When you opened a savings account, you got your choice of either a china bank or stuffed animal, whose idea was created in 1958 by those who brought us the Pillsbury Doughboy and Tony the Tiger.

I was fortunate to have both, however, only the bank remains and stands proudly in our family museum. The large stuffed lion was given away after my daughter, who was about 7 years old at the time, and deemed him to scary, especially at night. So he was given a new home. Both of these items can be found today on E-Bay.
What I remember the most about this stuffed lion is the ingenious marketing. I had observed that it was the men who opened most of the savings accounts and chose the stuffed animal over the bank. And because the lion was packaged in clear wrapping, the man could not hide Hubert as he walked to work or sat on the train, thus, this free advertising created much excitement in the Chicagoland area, before the bank knew it, they were inundated with people opening savings accounts to get Hubert. Who says men are not softies when it comes to stuffed animals. To see the entertaining television ad, visit this website.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Monday Memories

Happy Ground Hog Day to you!

Groundhog hibernation gave rise to the popular American custom of Groundhog Day, held on the second of February every year. Tradition dictates that if a groundhog sees its shadow that day, there will be six more weeks of winter, though such a prediction seems a sure bet over much of the groundhog's North American range.

 So it looks like there will be another 6 weeks of winter. But that’s ok. Why? Because as the winter winds blow and it’s too cold for outside activities, this is the best time to create your Family Museum. And since today’s theme is Monday Memories, I would like to share with you our family’s museum “Honey Bear.” He is a close to a Ground Hog we can get.

Made in Korea by Daekor Designs DI I and distributed by the Hudson Bay Trading Co., Ltd., NY, our Honey Bear’s original name is “Pot Belly Bear.” He is 18” high from the tip of his fuzzy ear to the tip of his foot, with a 16” wide hug. I gave him to my husband and he would use Honey Bear as a pillow behind his head when he drove long distances. As time went on, Honey Bear was adorn with a band of cowrie shells and chocolate brown color ipil seeds taken off of an old Panama hat.  

According to African legend, if you are attracted to cowrie shells you could be family to an ocean spirit of wealth and earth. It also represents Goddess protection which is very powerful and connected with the strength of the ocean. Throughout Africa, and South and North America, the cowrie symbolized the power of destiny and prosperity. 
The Ipil seeds are used for many crafts in the Philippines and come from Acacia trees.

After our son Charlie was born, he received a Baby “Chicago Bears” Jacket. It did not fit him, so we put it on Honey Bear and to this very day, wears it proudly.
Honey Bear loves being in our Family Museum. We regard him as the museum guard watching over our family heirlooms. Do you have any Honey Bears in your museum?


Tuesday Post:  Tuesday Treasures