Grandma Stormy’s Groovy Guide to Keeping in Touch With Long-distance Grandkids!

My daily trip to the mailbox has become a much more anticipated event since I sent my grandchildren their correspondence kits filled with note cards, stickers and trimmings.  Receiving the completed “fill-in” letters back from my darlings was a delight.  I found out two of my grandchildren’s favorite color is ‘rainbow’ and was especially gratified that two of them chose reading as their favorite pastime.  While shopping in a charming stationary shop in Michigan, I found a book of postcards with remarkable images taken from the Hubble Telescope. I mailed one to each of my new pen pals and the responses are trickling in.  In May I plan to write longer notes, but in June they’ll get another postcard with a “word scramble” to solve of a specific word chosen especially for each child.  

Letters are expectation packaged in an envelope.
Shana Alexander

READING IS FUN-DAMENTAL! 

With my snail mail program going strong, I’ve been considering other ways to stay connected with my long-distance grandchildren.  Reading is one of my favorite pastimes and something I love sharing with them.  For younger grandkids, sending them a “recordable” book of grandma reading can be a pretty simple thing to accomplish.  I got the idea from Emily, mother of our twins, who received a recorded book from her parents when the babies were young. Emily said that she really loved that book on nights when she was so tired from a day of taking care of two babies, she didn’t know if she could read a bedtime story.  How wonderful it was to just turn the pages and let her parents read to Eli and Henry. I have seen the recordable books available at Barnes and Noble, Hallmark, and online.

When our youngest granddaughter, Eleanor, was born in Taiwan, I amped it up a bit.  I purchased Hallmark’s recordable book, Under the Same Moonby Suzanne Berry, describing how even when we’re miles apart, we’re looking up at the same moon.  I had each page recorded by a different family member.  Grandpa, moi, my sons, daughters-in-law and each of Eleanor’s cousins who were able to read recorded a page.  Even Sam who couldn’t read yet at that time was recorded welcoming baby Eleanor. When the recording was complete, I packed it up with a few other treasures, including a handmade mobile with pictures of Eleanor’s family members eagerly awaiting her arrival in the US, and sent it off to Taiwan.  I think Aunt Ruby would approve.

WILL GRANDPA BY A YOU TUBE SENSATION?

 Many long-distance grandparents are familiar with Skype and Facetime to stay connected with their long-distance grandkids.  Now that Sam is reading, I relish the evenings we Facetime so I can listen to him read to me.  While not the same as cuddling on the couch together, I am grateful it’s an option.

So how to take it to the next level?  When we move to our new home, I’m planning an apartment tour. Starting with the elevator entrance, we’ll go up ten floors, through our new front door, and show them the view from our new nest.  I’ll show them where grandma sits drinking wine while watching grandpa make dinner. And speaking of grandpa making dinner, I’ll be asking each child to choose the menu for their first dinner with grandma and grandpa at the new digs.  I want to make a video of grandpa preparing that tasty treat.  Perhaps it will go viral!

GOT A GREAT IDEA?

I’ve found that you can do jigsaw puzzles online with your grandkids.  That could be fun if you have a little one who’s under the weather. At the last Camp Grandma, the nightly book group with my grandkids with one of my favorite activities.  You could purchase the same book for you and a grandchild and have regular phone calls to discuss the book.  And now that my grandkids are getting a little older, I’m rolling around in my brain how we could set up a family newsletter that would be a bit of a round robin, keeping me connected with them while also keeping cousins connected!

My grandkids tell me sharing is caring, so if you have any special ways of keeping in touch with your long-distance grandkids, kids or other family and friends, I’d love it if you shared them!  

C’est la vie.


Carve your name on hearts…

Mr. Smith and I logged another road trip this past weekend, popping up to Niagara Falls for a night on Friday.  Saturday morning, we pressed on through rain and cold to his mother’s in Michigan to spend Easter weekend with her. Sunday morning the sun came out and we enjoyed our time together in the thumb of Michigan, eating, drinking and chatting.  Then Monday morning we headed back to Ithaca. The weather cooperated, the drive was easy and the conversation thought-provoking. 

The view from our hotel room on the 37th floor.

Mr. Smith is approaching his 65th birthday and with that upcoming milestone, he has become quite introspective.   As we drove across Ontario on the QEW enjoying the sight of buds popping on trees and fields turning green, we talked about our lives and how we would like to be remembered, what kind of legacy we want to leave.  While we both hope to have many more years to share with our family and friends, milestones have a way of making you take stock.

It was providential that the same day Mr. Smith and I were talking about how we’d like to be remembered, my sister-in-law posted this poem from American writer and teacher, Bernadette Noll, on Facebook.

I also want to age like sea glass, to have a well-earned patina with just the right luster.  Life is going by so quickly.  It seems like just yesterday I was waiting for the results of a pregnancy test, and now my three sons are grown men building lives of their own. Ten years ago, I had no grandchildren, now I have seven and I revel in them each and every day.  

As much fun as I am having in life right now, I know no one lives forever.  Shannon L. Alder, an American author who works with hospice patients said, “Carve your name on hearts, not on tombstones.  A legacy is etched into the minds of others and the stories they share about you.”   I hope I leave my children and grandchildren with many memories and stories they’ll want to share and the deep, steadfast knowledge of how much they were loved. And I hope they will feel as lucky to have been part of my life as I feel to have them as part of mine.

C’est la vie.



In my Easter bonnet…

Mr. Smith and I are on a road trip through Canada to the thumb of Michigan. We are celebrating Easter with my delightful mother-in-law. And yes, there is Smith Family Cheesecake for brunch.

Here I am at not quite seven years old in my lovely blue frock with little white gloves, an Easter hat, and new purse. Didn’t we look swell for Easter services? On a side note, I loved my dress so much, I tried to wear it to school a couple weeks after Easter. I managed to spill grape juice all over it during breakfast. My mother was not pleased.

Happy Easter, happy Passover or happy spring. And if you feel like wearing your fancy dress today, go ahead. Just don’t spill grape juice on it.

C’est la vie.

Serendipity…

Serendipity, it’s one of my favorite words. It’s such a nice sound for what it means: a fortunate accident.

Sara thomas, serendipity

The impetus for our latest trip to New York City was for me to attend a Blog Writing seminar at Gotham Writers.  I had been looking for a class on my new favorite endeavor for a while when I stumbled onto this workshop. This particular class at Gotham Writers was also offered in July and I did wonder if I should wait until we had our move to Pennsylvania behind us.  Another reason I hesitated before entering my credit card information was that I have attended workshops in the past that left me thinking, “Are you kidding, I paid for this???”  Despite the misgivings, Mr. Smith and I decided a trip to New York City was worth it no matter how the workshop turned out, so I hit the “Enroll” button and we started making plans for our weekend.  We drove into the city on Friday afternoon through rain and snow but were greeted by the sun on Saturday morning. The walk through midtown Manhattan to my class in the Paramount Building on Broadway required sunglasses. When I entered the classroom that sunny, crisp morning, the above quote was stenciled on the wall. I hoped it was a sign.

The view from our classroom on the 11th floor of the historic Paramount Building.

My instructor was stimulating and professional. The other participants were a fascinating and delightful cross-section of women of all different ages and interests.  We discussed concept, content, knowing your audience and much, much more.  The seven hours flew by.  It did feel a bit serendipitous that after months of procrastination on signing up for anything, I had landed with this group.  If I had waited until July, I wouldn’t have met Becky who writes a blog for military families focused on the challenges to the family of the frequent relocations or Elizabeth who writes a blog on China Law and Policy from a perspective other than old white male.  And we are all eagerly awaiting Patricia’s post on the difference between parmigiana cheese and its very distant cousin parmesan. 

I think of myself as a pragmatic person. Merriam Webster defines pragmatic as: Relating to matters of fact or practical affairs often to the exclusion of intellectual or artistic matters: practical as opposed to idealistic.  Why would a pragmatic person read a movie quote stenciled on a wall and hope it was a sign?  I’m toying with the thought that perhaps the “sign” to me that day was that I have reached the point in life where I don’t need to be so damn practical and can be more open to the fortunate accidents that life presents.  I can follow my fancy a bit more and not worry that I’m not “accomplishing” something.  

Do you believe in Serendipity?  American novelist, Elizabeth Berg, wrote in The Year of Pleasures, “Sometimes serendipity is just intention unmasked.” Could it be that once we find our intention and follow it, all sorts of possibilities will appear?  

C’est la vie.

Hello spring…

I must have flowers, always and always.

Claude Monet

Like Monet, I am always inspired by fresh flowers in my home, but never more than in spring.  The beautiful blooms signal the coming of welcome warm days ahead, helping to drive the long upstate New York winter out of our house.

While my childhood Easter memories are more closely tied to new church clothes, Easter baskets and chocolate bunnies than flowers, I do remember loving the delicate purple violas popping up in our yard and picking them to put in teacups.  The Easter tradition that my siblings and I most looked forward to was dying the eggs.  Mom would boil dozens of eggs.   We would cover the kitchen table with protective newspapers and proceed to drop Paas color tablets into cups filled with hot water and a teaspoon of vinegar. When the colors were dissolved, we would carefully slide the eggs into the cups of dye, trying hard not to crack them.  Occasionally we tried to demonstrate our creativity by using the wire dipper to attempt to hold an egg half way submerged in one of the colors, repeating with the other side in another color.  We thought we were the first ones to come up with such a brilliant idea.  Though our efforts never won any awards, it was a lot of fun.

We did have a family friend who would blow the eggs hollow and use them to create the most exquisitely decorated eggs I had ever seen.  Her artistry broadened my horizons.  Since childhood, I’ve experimented with dying Easter eggs with natural items like purple cabbage and onion skins, as well as some attempts at wax relief.  If you need inspiration for coloring your eggs, a quick peak at Pinterest will have you busy for hours.

With Easter a week away, I wanted to provide you with a snippet of holiday ideas.  Setting the table has always been my favorite part of entertaining. I’m happy to consult with Mr. Smith on a menu and then let him work his magic in the kitchen while I plan the appropriate table setting.  Since we are planning a move soon and packing and purging, this year I challenged myself to design an Easter table without purchasing anything new other than fresh flowers and consumables.

For this table setting, I used my china with a lovely purple violet design and let that direct my other decorative choices.  I was happy to find elegant purple tulips which I used individually on the napkins and in the arrangement.  I did succumb to the purchase of a spool or ribbon, but at least it’s not a 3-foot tall ceramic bunny that I will need to store the other 51 weeks of the year.

I’ve had these little glass chicks for so long, I don’t even remember where I got them!

I positively love my cloche, a large glass dome I used to house gourds in the fall, an Eiffel Tower and Christmas trees scene in December, and now it’s helping me welcome spring.

I decided to lighten up the fireplace mantle, focusing on spring blooms.

Do you have any special Easter traditions in your family?  Through the years I’ve colored many an egg, made bunny-shaped cookies, and filled countless Easter baskets, but the one tradition I have maintained each and every year is the baking of the Smith Family Cheesecake.  My mother-in-law served it at the first Smith Family Easter celebration I attended.  I’ve been making it ever since, sometimes cutting the recipe in half and creating an adorable little cheesecake when it is just Mr. Smith and me for Easter.  Though I have no idea where this recipe came from, we’ve enjoyed it for over 40 years and hope you do too.

SMITH FAMILY CHEESECAKE

Beat until thick: 2 eggs, 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and 2 tablespoons evaporated milk.

Mill until smooth 16 oz. cottage cheese.  Add a pinch of salt and ¼ teaspoon vanilla.

Combine all the ingredients and pour into a 9” unbaked pie shell.

Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees and enjoy!  (Can be made the night before and refrigerated.  Remove from the refrigerator at least an hour before serving.)

Whether you are spending Easter with family or friends, or taking some time to yourself, I hope you have some spring like weather, enjoy some spring flowers and perhaps spot your first robin! 

C’est la vie. 

I want to be a part of it…

I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world’s greatest chocolate chip cookie and my heart does a little dance.

Nora Ephron

Mr. Smith and I spent last weekend in New York City

The drive in Friday afternoon was a little rainy.

But that didn’t stop us from enjoying a glass of bubbly at our favorite wine bar.
I did NOT eat a hot dog…

The flowers at La Grenouille are always to die for…

The city that never sleeps…

C’est la vie…

Let bad air out, let the good air in…

As the calendar pages turned to April and May, inevitably my mother would start the spring cleaning of sweeping and dusting and she would tell the tale of her short lived step mother sweeping their rambling Wisconsin farmhouse and murmuring “let the bad air out, let the good air in”.   Mom, in her house cleaning uniform, dark curls tied up in a cotton scarf and wearing an old print house dress, would tackle the winter dust and grime.  Our childhood home had a gravity coal furnace so following the long cold snowy winter in northern Indiana, a coating of dust and grey ash was found on many surfaces.   The wear and tear of an energetic family of seven created never ending daily tasks to maintain some order but spring time brought the seasonal ritual whereas things got a more robust cleaning, scrubbing and polishing up.

Historians may not completely agree as to the origin of Spring Cleaning, but they do agree its roots run deep.   Some believe it originates with the old Jewish custom of cleaning the house before Passover to avoid inadvertently insulting God, or the Chinese custom of cleaning their homes to clear it of any misfortune or evil in anticipation of the New Year.  The origin most commonly held goes back to the Persian New Year, the ancient Festival of Nowruz.  They would scrub every inch of their home and fill it with fresh flowers. This was called Khooneh Tekouni which translates to “shaking the house.”  I picture in my mind someone turning the house over and shaking out all the dust and dirt.

While I assisted my mother and sisters with some spring cleaning projects when I was very young, my most vivid memories of spring cleaning come at about middle school age and involves washing windows.  My mother had a “thing” about clean windows.  We were now living in a mid-century house with a wall of floor to ceiling windows and in spring I would be tasked with washing them.  I never seemed to succeed the first time, always having to repeat the chore until she approved the results.  As an adult, I do appreciate a clean window and always think of my mother when I am evaluating my results, wondering if she would require a do-over.  

My sister Jeanne helping with Spring Cleaning in 1945

If the tease of warmer weather has inspired you to deep-clean your abode, there are a plethora of Spring Cleaning checklists on the internet.  Everyone from Martha Stewart to Pottery Barn has an opinion on what you should be scrubbing, polishing, and purging.  Sorry Martha, while I will be waging a war against cobwebs, I won’t be washing down all my walls and ceilings.  And I certainly won’t be resealing my grout!   Yet, I am old school enough to get a feeling of contentment from a well-cleaned house. And much like transitioning my wardrobe from winter to spring, I’m also transitioning my home.  While I enjoy the coziness of our reading chairs pulled up in front of the fireplace in the winter, warmer weather makes me want to rearrange and refresh.  Opening up our living space and paring back a bit on decorating while using more fresh flowers and greenery.  I am eagerly awaiting the day I find the first peonies of the season at the flower shop!

I think Spring Cleaning is partially a result of longer days, plants and bulbs popping up in the garden, and a resurgence of our energy levels.  Who doesn’t love opening the house to that wonderful smell of spring that you can’t get from a candle?  Thankfully, Spring Cleaning these days doesn’t have to be dragging rugs outside to be beaten with a carpet beater.  It can be as simple as cleaning your inbox, your junk drawer or tackling the pile of papers that has accumulated over the winter.  And if you need some help with windows, give me a call. I have lots of experience.

C’est la vie.