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Cuba Visit | Part 2 Architecture

by Jim and Melanie

As mentioned in our Cuba Visit | Part 1, the architecture of Cuba captured our attention. We were told that about 12% of existing buildings are from the colonial era of Cuba, from 1515 to 1898. Eighty percent is from that point of independence until the revolution, in 1959. And about 8% has been built since then, mostly with Soviet influence and help.

When we left the airport on entering the country we soon saw the effect of the last 8%. On one side of the highway, ugly concrete apartment buildings rose up in groups. Though still used, they looked damaged and abandoned. (The worst of the Soviet buildings, though, is the Russian Embassy. The link is for the googled images of it and in fact, it’s worse in person than in the photos.)

On our second day we went to the Presidential Palace, now used as the Museum of the Revolution. It was built in 1920, though it shows neo-classical styling rather than art deco. Some of the decorations were provided by Tiffany & Co. Much of the building has been renovated, and work is being done now on the back of the building and also on the high front windows. You may be able to see the scaffolding above the front entry.

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Rhubarb | First Shoots Are Up

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the garden for the first signs of life. We have a winner! Rhubarb is sending up shoots of tightly curled leaves. Those other leaves are some sort of weed. They are suffering the effect of temperatures in the mid-20s last night. The rhubarb was not harmed.

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I also defrosted the extra freezer downstairs this week. There were three containers of frozen rhubarb pieces from the crop last year. Looks like I need to make another pie. Last weekend I made a pie from some of last year’s frozen rhubarb. I added blueberries, red raspberries, and blackberries.

Angie at Fiesta Friday found out and wondered why I didn’t share it with the others at her blog. “Too busy”, I told her. Lucky for me, I took a picture of it. My cousin said it looked very patriotic with the red, white, and blue colors. Those stripes were from the leftover dough trimmed off the rim of the baking dish. It wouldn’t win any prizes at the state fair for looks. But, it tasted marvelous. It only took Melanie and I three days to eat it.

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If you are curious about my techniques for harvesting, cutting, freezing, and ultimately, what recipe I use, go to this previous post. All the details are there. Here is the printable recipe form.

Gramma Brown's Rhubarb Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Time: Less than 1 hr
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Print

Ingredients

  • 3 C of cleaned and sliced rhubarb. Add some berries if you wish.
  • 1.5  C of sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 4 T of flour
  • 1 pie dough pre-made from store or make your own

Directions

Preheat oven to 425˚ and line a pie pan with dough.

Cover the rhubarb and berries with 1/2 C of sugar and set the bowl aside.

In another bowl, combine the remaining sugar, flour, and eggs. Stir to mix.

Combine the two bowls of ingredients and stir to mix.

Pour into the prepared pie pan.

Bake for 30 minutes on center rack.

Let cool completely before serving to let it firm up.

Mother’s Day – 1947

Mom lived to be 93 years young. She died May 16, 2005. We all miss her very much.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the mothers. May your day be special.

The majority of countries that celebrate Mother’s Day do so on the second Sunday of May. On this day, it is common for Mothers to be lavished with presents and special attention from their families, friends and loved ones. But it wasn’t always this way. Only recently dubbed “Mother’s Day,” the highly traditional practice of honoring Motherhood is rooted in antiquity, and past rites typically had strong symbolic and spiritual overtones; societies tended to celebrate Goddesses and symbols rather than actual Mothers. The maternal objects of adoration ranged from mythological female deities to the Christian Church itself. The personal, human touch to Mother’s Day is a relatively new phenomenon. Only in the past few centuries did celebrations of Motherhood develop a decidedly human focus.

That human focus for me is shown in this photograph. I am the baby in the picture. Two more younger brothers came in the six years after this photo. Our mother was a tireless worker and loved us all with her whole being. Keeping up with the demands of the farm home, the school work, the church going, discipline, and cooking non-stop must have been exhausting. My brother said we had a wringer clothes washer at the time of this picture. Fortunate for her. I remember always having three long clothes lines in the yard, usually drooping under the weight of our clothes. Apparently, the dryer didn’t come until much much later.

In addition to the duties and pleasures of being our mother, she also kept some diary and journal entries for some occasions. I think she could have done many other kinds of productive things in her life. She chose this course and gave it her entire being. Below is a note transcribed from her writing. It clearly expresses the events of that special day in 1947.

Mothers Day – May – 1947

7 children – oldest is 12 – Jim, baby, 3 mos., 4 yr. old twins

7:15 A.M.    Got up

Made coffee & got breakfast
Put a roast in the oven
Made 2 salads
Bathed & dressed Jimmy – the baby
The kids gave me my Mothers Day gifts
Martha is sick & about to throw up
Ronnie broke a shoe lace in his Sunday shoes
Janie upset half a gallon of milk on the floor & table
Got them off to church
Martha is sick again
Called Mom & wished her a happy day
Made the beds – one was wet so it was all to change
Took 34 diapers off the rack & folded them
Washed the breakfast dishes
Dusted the floors

11 o’clock

John & the kids are home from church – My folks came with them
Got dinner & did up the dishes then we went to Blandinsville
Took Grandma R her Mothers Day gift
Helen & Wendell & Grandpa & Grandma R came out for the evening.
Wendell fixed our yard light & we made a freezer of ice cream.
Helen & Grandma R & I took my folks home to Raritan
Came back and visited a while and they all left.
Got the kids off to bed and went myself.

Ancestors | Walking the Homeland

The main point of this post is how digital technology today allows us to take virtual trips to a vast number of places. It is almost like being there. But, being there in person is the truest way to experience the world. Travel for real if you are able.


My maternal ancestors include the Kelly and Huston lines from central Ireland. In June of 2011, Melanie and I went to Ireland for a vacation. We started in Dublin, then took the train to central Ireland to find my ancestral homeland. I wanted to see it with my own eyes and walk where they walked. We spent the night in Athlone. Next day, the train took us to Galway where we stayed for six more. What a wonderful place.

The Kelly and Huston families lived where the counties Meath and Westmeath border just north of Delvin. My great-grandmother was born there in 1838. She, her eight sisters, and her parents all came to America. A relative showed me a link to deed maps of the mid-1800s for that area. We found two parcels of land which her family apparently owned and farmed. This map marks close to the two parcels.

We rode the train from Dublin to Mullingar. There, were spoke with a cabbie, Mick. We asked him if he would take us out of town just northeast of Delvin. He made a call to his boss and then said he would be happy to do it. Mick was a local and knew the area well. He enjoyed the chance to get out of town for a change. He talked a lot and told some good stories.

I want to see more.

Lines | Connecting Past to Future

My daughters joined me to visit teaching colleagues on July 2, 1979. They had some sparklers in preparation for the July 4th celebrations. Of course, the girls wanted to play with them. It was getting dark as evening neared. The camera needed a longer shutter speed of a half second or more. The pictures turned out much better than I expected. Sparks flew and burst into small branches before dying out. What fun we had.

In 1985, the Chicago Tribune Magazine ran a photo contest. People were invited to submit photographs with the theme ‘Lines‘. These two pictures came to mind from six years before. I submitted this top photograph in the color category. In October I got a big envelope in the mail from the Tribune with a framed certificate inside. I won second place and $250.

Fast forward to today. These beautiful daughters have children of their own. Some are the same ages as in these photographs. Much has changed in our lives. A few things are the same. I hope they will be able to look back a generation or more and see some of the lines that connect their past to what came about later. I hope they will be lines full of happiness and not much sadness.

Out the Back Window – Butterflies and Basil

by Jim and Melanie

I have a small garden plot next to the house where I raise tomatoes, pole beans, rhubarb, zinnias, peppers, and most important, basil. I let the basil get a little out of control and noticed it was flowering a lot. One sunny day, some winged visitors were there enjoying the basil flowers and the warm sun. I took a few pictures. I couldn’t identify them and later forgot about them. In browsing through those pictures, I came across this one from that day.

At the time, my uneducated guess was that it was a Monarch or Viceroy. They can be confusing since they look a lot alike. I found two good pictures of the Monarch and Viceroy species. Can you see the difference in their markings. Notice the line across the rear part of the wings on the Viceroy. The creature in my photograph above is clearly not either. What is it? If you know, please comment below.

Now for the tasty stuff. The reason we raise basil is, of course, to make pesto. What wonderful stuff. We tried several different versions of the recipe. Some ingredients were different in each. Finally, we settled on our own version that is simple and uses walnuts. If you want to try it yourself, try our recipe.

I think you will be glad you did. We reach into the freezer any time and pull out frozen basil cups for all kinds of uses. One of our favorites is pesto pizza. What a treat!

My Handy Rain Barrel

How I See It

There is a patch of day lillies at the back edge of the yard. I keep them watered as needed by using my rain barrel. The deer have walked by the lily patch so often they have worn a path. Most years, they eat the fresh buds before they bloom, robbing me of the pleasure of seeing them in their glory. This year was no exception. Maybe I need a tall fence.

A few years ago, our city offered to pay home owners half of the cost of rain barrels, butterfly gardens, rain water retention projects, etc., up to $750. I considered installation of a barrel before I read the announcement in the city newsletter. That news prompted me to go ahead with the plan.

This is my small garden arrangement on the south side of the house. There are two terraces full of rich soil. I rotate my crops…

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Gramma Brown’s Rhubarb Pie

I like rhubarb pie. I like to add strawberries to my rhubarb pie. I like ice cream with a piece of still-warm pie. And, this is the time of year when the rhubarb and strawberries are fresh from the garden. It doesn’t get much better. I just finished making a pie using Melanie in IA’s recipe from her Gramma Brown. It turns out a superb and always reliably delicious custard pie. Earlier in the day I went to the raspberry bushes along the tree line at the back yard and picked a quart of black raspberries. Some of them are in the pie, too. Doesn’t it look good?

Come along to see how it was done.