Dogs Over the Decades

Our dog’s been with us four years this month. I won’t post another picture of her, photogenic as she is. I have other pictures of dogs I’ve known, or met.

The first dog I remember — barely — was Caesar.

CaesarIt’s impossible to tell in this early ’60s-vintage picture, but he had a spot of pink fur next to his nose. At least, that’s what I remember as a very small child. Being a dog that roamed parts of semi-rural North Texas, he encountered (so I’m told) a nest of young rattlesnakes one spring, and that was all for him.

This is my grandmother in the 1950s, holding a young Georgette.

GrandmaandGeorgetteI remember Georgette well. She lived with my grandmother in San Antonio until the late 1960s, when the dog died of natural causes. Caesar was one of her pups.

Jay and Deb’s dog Aloysius, with the young family in 1983. I met him a number of times during ’80s visits, when my nephews were small.

AloysiusTheir dog Brynna. I think I took this picture during our visit for Thanksgiving 2001.
CollegiatePose-BrynnaJay’s current dogs, Holly and Chloe. I get to visit them when I go to Dallas. They spend a lot of time in this particular spot in the living room.

Holly ChloeAnd of course, Katie. The dog my mother had when I was in high school and beyond, 1976 to 1992, to be exact. This was the small dog that got a hold of a big bag of doughnuts, a half dozen or so, and ate them all. They didn’t stay eaten.

KatieMy friends Rich and Lisa in Massachusetts had an Irish wolfhound in the 1990s named Charlotte. I remember her well during our visit for New Year’s 1993.

CharlotteMy friends Ed and Lynn in Arizona had Bosco, whom we met during our visit in 1997. He knew some tricks, but I can’t remember what they were now.

Bosco1997Late in his life, Ed had an elderly dog named Bert living with him in Washington state. Ed sent me this picture ahead of my visit in 2015, to show how much fur Bert shed.

Bertandfur2015My friend Tom in Austin has a dog called Roscoe. He’s fond of jumping on you when you come into the room.

RoscoeLilly’s friend Rachel has a dog called Riley.

RileyFinally, one cat. In Osaka, Yuriko used to have a cat named Michael. Picture ca. 1994.


I got along with him all right, mainly because he was fond of lying around like a dog.

A Teen Birthday, ’17 Edition

Put this in Tempus Fugit file. Ann celebrated her 14th birthday on Friday night, here in the pit of a not-too-awful winter and a few days ahead of the actual event.

For contrast, see an image from 13 years ago. For a different contrast, from five years ago.

Here’s the cake itself, before implements of cake-destruction were taken to the task of dividing it into manageable pieces.
birthday cake

Not exactly mass consumption, but enough to satisfy.

Enjoying the Snows of Yesteryear

Light rain fell early Thursday morning — I heard it during the wee hours — but by morning, the ground was lightly touched by snow. That ultrathin coat of snow lasted until Saturday and then vanished. For now, we’ve got a brown winter.

Not so most Januaries. Such as in mid-January 2012, when I happened to catch Lilly in the back yard enjoying the snow.
Jan 17 12Jan 17 12Jan 17 12I might be wrong, but I don’t think she took that hat off to college.

Tannenbaum ’16

We acquired a Christmas tree last Thursday afternoon, but not at the usual place, a roadside business that’s a nursery during the warm months. It sells Christmas trees and firewood this time of year, but when we went, only a handful of forlorn trees were on the property, and no proprietors seemed to be around. If we were less honest, we probably could have nicked a tree, but then again the leftovers were just that. Maybe they’d sold their better stock before the recent snows and blasts of cold air.

So we did the modern thing, and Lilly looked for Christmas tree lots on Google Maps. The nearest one was about a half mile away. Just a dude from Michigan in a trailer parked on a strip center lot with a modest selection of trees — no pretense of supporting a charity — though better than the abandoned lot. Got us a tree about a foot shorter than usual, but with a nice shape, and for only $35.

Before long, the tree was in the living room, but we didn’t get around decorating it until Saturday. Looks about the same as every year. I put on the lights.
Christmas Tree 2016

The girls put on most of the rest of the ornaments.

Lilly and Ann Dec 2016We had some extra strings of lights, bought last year on the cheap after Christmas I think, so we strung some on the plants in the foyer.

Christmas lights 2016

That isn’t the same as every year. First time.

Christmas Card Photo Shoot ’98

Eighteen years ago, I got a notion to send out personalized Christmas cards, the kind using a picture of your own that’s printed by a professional service. I’m sure I didn’t do it online, since I had no Internet connection at my house until 2000. I must have taken the negative to a photo shop, but I don’t remember the details.

Of course Lilly, then not quite a year old, was going to be the star of the card. There were a lot of existing pictures of her — first children tend to be the subject of a lot of pictures — but nothing I really wanted to use. I wanted something with a holiday theme. So I took her to the front yard, along with the gold-colored plastic star that we topped the Christmas tree with (still do), for a photo shoot.

I didn’t get anything I liked for the card that way, either. They tended to be fuzzy. But not completely without charm. They’ve been tucked away these years while she grew into a college student.
img335A few days later, without planning to, I took the picture we did use, a longstanding favorite image of toddler Lilly.

Thanksgiving ’16

One of the good things about Thanksgiving is that, while the next day technically isn’t a holiday — and some years ago, I worked for a skinflint who insisted that people work that day — it really is part of the holiday. So for me the thing stretched from Wednesday afternoon to Sunday afternoon (I usually get back to work on Sunday evening, since things need to be filed Monday morning).

Our Thanksgiving meal was pretty much the same as it has been for the last few years, after Lilly took over the making of the major starches: mashed potatoes, stuffing, macaroni and cheese. The meat, ham. The bread, King’s Hawaiian. The drink, Martinelli’s sparkling cider. The dessert, pecan pie. Call it habit, call it tradition.

Time to read: a valuable commodity. Needing something light, I buzzed through Lafayette in the Somewhat United States (2015), a popular history by Sarah Vowell, which guarantees a humorous tone. Humorous, but with genuine historical information included and, something I particularly like, accounts of her visits to often obscure places and monuments associated with the subject. In this case, sites associated with Lafayette. In the case of the only other book of hers I’ve read, Assassination Vacation, sites associated with the deaths of Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley.

There was also time over the holiday to watch a few movies, two on the small screen, one on the big screen. Radio Days, which I hadn’t seen since it was new. I appreciate the wonderful soundtrack a lot more now than I did then. Then there was Twelve O’Clock High, a first-rate war movie and Gregory Peck vehicle that I’d never seen before.

On Saturday, we all went to a nearby movie theater. Lilly and Ann wanted to see The Edge of Seventeen, a coming-of-age flick. Yuriko and I weren’t interested in that, so we saw Doctor Strange, a superhero movie about a character I knew virtually nothing about. Been a while since I’ve seen a comic-book inspired movie, especially in the theater. It was better than I expected. The story wasn’t great, but it managed to avoid outright stupidity, and the CGI was astonishingly good.

I also saw pieces of movies over the holiday. Days off or not, I see more pieces of movies now than whole ones, because there’s work to do, but also because I often don’t feeling like sitting through a whole movie, especially ones I’ve seen before, or already decided I don’t need to see.

Between Wednesday and today, I saw pieces of (no more than 30 minutes, no special order): Swing Shift, The Gay Divorcee, Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Marie Antoinette (2006), The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Gone With the Wind, The Godfather, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Capote, Juno, and Gran Torino. The last two were the only ones I’d never seen before. I lucked into some justly famous scenes in a few cases, such as the escape from burning Atlanta in GWTW, and the particularly memorable Phoebe Cates scene in Fast Times.

Lilly at 19

Lilly’s home from UIUC for Thanksgiving week and, by coincidence, her birthday.
Birthday cakeThose are ordinary number candles, except for one thing. They were atop my mother’s, Lilly’s grandmother’s, cake last month. In reverse order: 91 vs. 19. Quite a difference threescore and 12 years make.

I didn’t make the trip home from college for Thanksgiving ’79, staying in the dorm practically by myself, since it was too far to go just for four days (no whole week off in those days for Thanksgiving). That was considered a sad option, but I didn’t mind. Four days of quiet and not much to do wasn’t bad at all.

Ann Goes to Washington

Yesterday Ann returned from Washington DC after a long weekend there. She took advantage of the quasi-holiday that’s Columbus Day to go on a quasi-school trip; four days and three nights (there was no school last Friday because of parent-teacher conferences).

Quasi because it wasn’t actually a school function, or even a school club trip, but organized by a company that makes money from the trips, with some teachers participating as chaperons, not as teacher-chaperons. Three busloads of kids from a number of junior high schools around here went. It was a crowded scene at the parking lot where they boarded the buses.

In some ways, the moment of departure is the best part of any trip.

She says it was a good trip. Except that she had a camera-phone mishap and deleted a lot of her pictures before she could get home. All I could tell her was that the important thing was being there, not taking the pictures. As often as I take pictures myself these days, I believe that. I’ve been plenty of places without a camera, and even now leave it behind when I don’t want to mess with it.

Among other things, she saw various memorials, such as those honoring Lincoln, Jefferson, FDR, MLK, and the U.S. soldiers of WWII, Korea and Vietnam; visited Ford’s Theatre and the Peterson House, Arlington National Cemetery, the Holocaust Museum, the Newseum, Mount Vernon and the National Cathedral; went on a dinner cruise on the Potomac; and swam at the Spring Hill Recreation Center in Fairfax County. Those kids were busy. Sounds like good tourist value for the money to me.

And some of her pictures survived.


That’s a better shot than I ever got of the Lincoln Memorial.

Royal Oak Orchard, 2004 (and ’05)

About 12 years ago, I wrote, “I will, however, write about a place that needed less detailed notes: the Royal Oak Orchard, near Harvard, Illinois, where I took the whole family a week ago Saturday. It’s a U-Pick-Em orchard, the sort of place that one never thinks to go without small children…. Besides the rows of apple trees open to all pickers, there was a fruit shop, restaurant, souvenir shop, shack shop, playground, petting zoo, rings for campfires, a hayride, and a teepee inscribed with Bible verses.”

I took a favorite As-We-Were picture at the orchard that day, September 18, 2004.
orchard1Don’t know who the fellow in the green shirt was. Just standing around, probably. It makes me wonder how many images, scattered around in all sorts of places, I’ve accidentally gotten myself into.

To continue: “It was a fine day for picking, sunny and warm, and we had a pleasant drive into the exurbs. The orchard is about five miles east of Harvard, a town hard against the Illinois-Wisconsin line. I’d estimated that it would take an hour to get there; Yuriko thought it would be two hours; it worked out to be an hour and a half, true to the spirit of compromise in a marriage.”

Lilly was into the spirit of apple-picking.
orchard2“We got down to the business of picking apples, yellow ones and red ones and colors in between, with variety names that I don’t recall (guess I could use some notes). Regardless of their names, they were all tasty apples. Many of them were low enough for Lilly to reach, and even Ann sampled a number of different ones, though actual picking was a little beyond her.”

I had a fine time myself.

orchard3We’d picked apples the year before at a place I don’t remember so well, and the next year we went back to Royal Oak Orchard, but got rained on, and bought a bag instead of picking them.

No such problem in 2004: “Afterwards we repaired to the picnic area to eat lunch. A sign prohibited outside food, that is, picnic lunches such as the one we brought, but we ignored this. Pop Christian music played unobtrusively, but distinctly, from a speaker near the snack shop. Curious, but purveying apples and spreading the Gospel doesn’t seem mutually exclusive.”

We haven’t picked any U-Pick-Em apples since. Just one of those things you never quite get around to again, and then everyone’s lost interest.

Queen Elizabeth Cake, NW Suburban Style

A recent birthday cake in our house.

Queen Elizabeth Cake, Deerfield BakeryOne candle because no one could be bothered to come up with some other combination. “It’s for your first half-century,” I told Yuriko.

It’s called a Queen Elizabeth Cake, a creation of the always-talented Deerfield Bakery here in the northwest suburbs. The bakery’s web site tells me that it’s “yellow cake filled with strawberries, Bavarian cream and sliced bananas.” That jibes with my experience of eating some of it.

Also, “a single strawberry crowns this dessert, created by Henry Schmitt in honor of Queen Elizabeth’s visit to Chicago in 1959.” That would be part of the Queen’s tour along the spanking-new St. Lawrence Seaway that year. (A bit of major infrastructure that should be better known; I’d bet that only a small number of kids in Lilly’s dorm, just to pick one sample of people that age, know what it is.)

Henry Schmitt, coming from a line of bakers from Germany, founded Deerfield Bakery in metro Chicago in the 20th century. Apparently his QE Cake was an idiosyncratic take, since elsewhere (such as, I’ve read that the term refers to “a date nut cake… crowned with a broiled coconut topping.”

That sounds good too, but it isn’t anything like the Deerfield Bakery creation.

Queen Elizabeth Cake, Deerfield BakeryWhich is very, very good.