Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Easton Maryland, The Afternoon Report

I am a very, very lucky person...and you know I know it. But this day in Maryland was simply SPECTACULAR.

For one thing, it's the middle of April and we haven't seen the sun in Iowa for months.  I was SO HAPPY TO BE IN A WARM, SUNNY PLACE. And I hadn't seen my friend Donna for a really long time -- so we had a lot of catching up to do.

Maybe it's just the fact that -- the older I get -- the more grateful I am for a SIMPLE GOOD DAY.

And, when Anita welcomed us to their meeting that morning, I felt so happy, and important -- and lucky to be in that place at that moment in time.  Women who sew ARE THE FINEST PEOPLE.  I AM TELLING YOU..!! I was soo happy I'd made this spontaneous trip to Maryland....to the Bayside Quilters/Mary Fons event...
And those women thought of EVERY LAST DETAIL. THIS is a photo of the fresh flowers -- in the Firestation bathroom!!
After the morning session, Donna and I had a brief little visit with Mary. Which was great. But then, we had the afternoon on our own -- and I was so happy to be able to explore. Easton, Maryland was a BRAND NEW PLACE for me...and it looked sooo charming!!
DAFFODILS..!!! MY FAVORITE FLOWER. And they were in full bloom on this day. I cannot tell you how happy daffodils make me. Isn't that a spectacular color?? They have always thrilled me.
Easton, Maryland is the kind of town that should have it's own calendar...
It's one of those towns families flock to in the summer....and they rent a place for a week or a month....and they return year after year...
Of course, it sits right on the water.
So, finding a restaurant for lunch with a water view became our mission.
The people of the Chesapeake Bay are a special bunch!

We'll take that little table over in the corner...
The one with the VIEW...
Yep.  Another wonderful meal...on the Eastern Shore...
And they're famous for something called Smith Island Cake.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME??

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Hello, MARY FONS..!!

I HAVE SO MUCH TO TELL YOU..!!
The Bayside Quilters use the Easton Fire Station for their meetings and programs.
They had a beautiful little quilt show hanging...
Their morning session started with a business meeting.
Some of the quilts belonged to Mary, others belonged to guild members.
One of Mary's early quilts
Anita Brayton is the current President of the Bayside Quilters -- and she let me buy two tickets to the show!  Then, that morning, she asked if "Rita Farro" was in the room...and Mary came running down the aisle to hug me like I was her long lost Aunt....I FELT SO SPECIAL..!!
There were so many beautiful quilts.
But, of course, Mary Fons was the STAR OF THE SHOW..!!
Her morning lecture was titled, "You Call That A Quilt". And it was everything I knew it would be.  Mary is knowledgeable, and entertaining and I learned so much -- and I laughed...

It was perfect.  I'm sooo glad I came.

But, of course -- THERE'S MORE....!!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Why I Went to Maryland!!

So, I am a big fan of all-things-Mary-Fons.

Next month, she is getting her Master's degree from the Art Institute  -- and she will officially become the Editor of the fabulous new magazine, Quiltfolk.

Mary mentioned in her blog that she will no longer be able to  travel all over the country, doing her kick-ass lectures...and I was very sad. Because I've never attended a Mary Fons lecture. HOW DID I MISS THAT?? I always figured there would be a  "next time"...

Then -- I saw Mary was scheduled to present two lectures in Easton, Maryland. For the Bayside Quilter's. On Wednesday, April 11.

Hey -- I HAVE A FRIEND IN BALTIMORE....I AM JUST GONNA DO THIS THING..!!

So, in a rare act of SPONTANEITY (okay, it's not that rare) -- I booked a flight from Moline to Baltimore.

Flying out of my local airport is certainly no big deal...Moline, Illinois is a wonderful, friendly small airport that I am very familiar with.

I had to fly to Minneapolis first...and that's a familiar place for me.  Piece of cake. Baltimore is a lovely airport...they have moving walkways....

BWI has a beautiful Rental Car Facility...
AND I'd rented a car for only $7 a day!! (and the Ritaluck UPGRADE meant I got to drive a Nissan Altima!!) Wow.  This is going really well, don't you think??
It was about 1:30 when I got behind the wheel of my beautiful rental car.

Three minutes later, I was smacked in the face with all my early I-am-such-an-experienced-traveler-and-this-is-a-piece-of-cake....smugness.

What finally got me was the Baltimore Beltway. Good old # 695. 8 lanes of crazy.

Apparently, to get a license in Baltimore, you must swear you will ALWAYS DRIVE 80 miles an hour!!

OMG WHAT WAS I THINKING???!! I have absolutely NO BUSINESS driving, by myself, on this crazy busy, congested big city beltway...with all these rude people....(I actually tried to take a picture of a man giving me the finger...)
At that moment, I remembered a time (years ago) I was driving in Canada -- and got stopped by a RCMP. (Royal Canadian Mounted Police). He asked if I had a valid driver's license. (he wanted me to DRIVE because the Canadian I was with couldn't pass the breathalyzer test).

I said, "yes, but it's from Iowa...and I'm afraid the only real driving skill I have is passing a combine on a gravel road going 45 miles per hour."

He said that was good enough...

But, clearly, my skills are NOT GOOD ENOUGH for Baltimore....After an hour of white-knuckle driving, near misses and honking horns -- I finally arrived at my friend's house.
The view from her yard looks a lot like Iowa!!
But it's the CRABCAKE that tells you YOU'RE IN MARYLAND..
Donna Babylon ALWAYS KNOWS THE BEST PLACES..!!
Tomorrow -- you'll see Mary Fons!! In Maryland!! Doing one of her last lectures (for a while...)...I AM SOO DELIGHTED!!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

What I did Last Week...

In March of 2016, I took Lilly to Chicago. It was our first trip to Chicago...our first ride on a train...and the first time I got to spend the day with Mary Fons. ***************** March 2016: Our Mary Fons/Chicago day happened when I emailed Mary to ask her advice about taking public transportation. This weekend trip was Lilly's 7th birthday present from me...and I wanted it to be THE first big city experience, complete with public transportation.

The big bonus was when MARY SAID SHE WAS GOING TO BE IN TOWN...and she offered to actually spend the day with us. AND PLAN THE WHOLE THING...

WOW...

To review, Mary met us at our hotel at Noon, and we took the City Bus to the Art Institute, then we had High Tea a the Russian Tea Room,
Then she put us in a cab and we are headed -- where??
TO HER VERY OWN CONDO..!!
She and Lilly picked up her mail.
Then, went up an elevator, down a hall, and opened the door.
If you are a fan of Paper Girl (Mary's wonderful blog) -- you'll recognize this dresser!
Lilly loved her eclectic furniture.
We even got a tour OF HER CLOSET (and all those high heels!)
We even got a picture with Pendennis!!
My favorite picture of the entire weekend...
Lilly took this picture of a mouse on top of a mouse.
And, yes, people, THIS IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS...
And it really was magic. Lilly and I arrived on Friday afternoon, and left on Sunday afternoon -- so we really only had one complete day in Chicago. Saturday. And from the moment we got up that morning, I cannot imagine doing anything better than exactly what we did.

Lilly doesn't even know how lucky she was on this most perfect day...but, when she is older -- it will hit her.

And -- hey -- OUR MOST PERFECT DAY IN THE BIG CITY ISN'T OVER YET!!

Friday, April 20, 2018

Mom's Apple Pie 2.0

Hey -- this re-run is from 2009!!  The year I started this blog.  There isn't a day in my life when I don't think about Apple Pie.  This is a conversation I have often...it helps me.

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November, 2009:

First of all -- I can't believe you have TIME TO READ A BLOG today!! With Thanksgiving two days away -- it's just not possible to get everything done. So my tip of the day is "Mom's Apple Pie". My Mom baked the absolute BEST apple pie in the world. Here's a visual...




But this is not a recipe -- it's a metaphor...which might help you get through the holidays. Think of every single day as one of Mom's Apple Pies. A wonderful, delicious treat meant to be enjoyed. But, it's only one pie -- and if you try to cut it into a hundred different pieces, nobody enjoys it.

When the boys were small, I was running a retail business. I was being pulled in many directions -- there was work, special events, marketing, Chamber of Commerce, the beginning of my speaking business, then I'd go home to cooking and cleaning, mountains of dirty clothes, little league baseball games four nights a week, wanting to eat dinner with them, but having no time.

One day, I realized I had just as much time as everybody else. I simply was not doing the things that mattered to me the most.....That's when it hit me that each day was like one delicious apple pie. I GET TO DECIDE who gets a piece of my pie. My family deserved HALF. The business needed the other half. So the Chamber of Commerce fell off my priority list and I let other people take over the PTA and running the school carnival.

So there it is -- my Apple Pie Philosophy. It is YOUR DAY, AND YOUR TIME. And only YOU can decide who is deserving of your time and energy. Embracing this philosophy gives you the right to say "NO". Maybe you'd rather rock the grandbaby than bake your own rolls. Well...you get my drift...it also gives you the right to say "YES"...
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2018 Apple Pie Winners:

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Too Old To Travel. (TOTT)...

After I get through my time-consuming re-entry back into my Iowa life...I will tell you WHERE I WENT for a whole week. By Myself. Mostly.

And why I probably won't do it again...

One of the tricky parts about life is figuring out when a thing is over...and it's time to move on... 

Y'know -- I used to LOVE going to those small town Little League games.  Both Ross and Elliott played baseball for years...and I thought those games would always be a part of my summer life here in Iowa.  But, as it turns out, they grew up, we got busy with other things, and I haven't been to a baseball game in 20 years.

Some things become a happy memory -- like a chapter you read in a good book once.  Like chopping firewood, giving your kids a bath before they go to bed at night, or making salt water taffy (actually, I never did that myself)...

But, what I'm talking about is realizing, as I get older, there are things I just flat SHOULD NOT DO...no, you don't have to cover your eyes...I'm not about to discuss Kamasutra sexual positions...I'm talking about renting a car and driving out of the Baltimore airport...


 ************************
I wrote this post in 2016.  I should have RE-READ it sooner...

John is from Pennsylvania. We met in 1970 in Washington, D.C. and were married later that year. Although we've spent most of our life together in Iowa, and raised our boys here -- we have always gone back to Pennsylvania every summer to visit John's family.
Yes, 45 years of summer road trips back to Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania...it's a 14 hour road trip. And John never lets me drive Fun, eh?
We rented a bright rust-colored Hyundai Santa Fe on Friday, September 23. We picked it up at the airport at 5:00 pm-- with the intention of leaving at Midnight. (in order to get through Chicago at 3:00 AM, missing the rush hour).

So, it was after dark when we were packing the car. John went to bed about 9:00 to take a nap. Ross came home from work at 11:30, and chastised us because the dome light was on in the rental car, and also John’s trunk light was on. (According to him, he had to turn off the dome light in my car three times last week,) Ross helped us pack the car, then he went to bed.

30 minutes later, we were ready to pull out -- but couldn’t because John’s Honda was parked behind the Santa Fe.  At that moment, we realized that neither one of us had a house key. So -- we had to wake Ross up. I called his cellphone, and he picked  up and said, “you're locked out of the house, aren't you?”

Ross came down and opened the door so John could get his Honda/House keys. We’re off. FINALLY. Five minutes later, we pulled into the local 24-hour gas station to “top it off”…as gas is much cheaper in Iowa.

The problem was that we couldn’t find the little tab that pops the gas cap open. We looked…and looked…because it’s a Hyundai, and I drive one myself, I figured it would be in the same general area on the dashboard. It was not. WE LOOKED EVERYWHERE…

Finally  -- I gave up and got out the HUGE book from the glove compartment. I tried to use the index…but there was no such topic as. “gas cap”… The light was bad, the mosquitoes were awful, and I could not read the tiny little print in this large 800-page book. I was annoyed to see two people inside the gas station, their faces pressed against the window...watching and laughing…

FINALLY -- I saw a diagram in the front of the book and realized the tab in question is ON THE DRIVERS DOOR…WHA??

OMG...##&^%$$#^^&&!!!. It was almost 2:00 AM before we got on the road…and I was already whipped. So was John. We drove straight through Illinois -- and it was early morning when we stopped at a Travel Plaza in Indiana. We both went to use the bathrooms…and then, sat down to eat a breakfast sandwich. John went out to the car...I stopped to buy a bottle of water.

When I got out to the Santa Fe (remember the BRIGHT RUST COLOR) -- I was surprised that John wasn’t sitting in it. But the lights were going off and on. Hummm… I went to the passenger door, and it was unlocked. As I was about to get in, I finally saw John. He was 40 feet away -- opening the door of WHITE Santa Fe -- that apparently had unlocked with his key fob.

I started to laugh…then, called his name, just as he was about to get in the wrong vehicle. When he heard me -- he closed that door and came over to our BRIGHT RUST COLORED car. I was laughing so hard, I could not speak.

He said the first Santa Fe he opened was a gray one -- but when he opened that door, he smelled smoke, so he knew it wasn’t ours…but he was sure the white one WAS...

ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? He actually got that Hyundai key fob to open up THREE VEHICLES….

Yeah...it was a rocky start...at 9:00 AM, I texted Ross, "at the first Travel Plaza, your Dad got in two wrong cars"...and Ross texted back..."Stay where you are.  I am coming to get you."

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Padora's Italian Bread

I've been ON VACATION for a whole week!! And today is my re-entry day. I thought I'd written enough blog posts (before I left) before I left. But I see this morning that nothing posted. DARN...
It'll take me a day or so to catch-up now that I'm back in Iowa...

So, I'm going to rely on a few well chosen re-reruns....

I was in Maryland (for a surprise visit, which I'll write about soon) -- AND then I went to Pennsylvania.  There was one remarkable day...when I go to take my friend Kathy to this amazing place....AND IT WAS A.M.A.Z.I.N.G...

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I wrote this in 2014:

One of the highlights of our Pennsylvania vacation ALWAYS -- is eating bread from the Italian baker in Tamaqua.

John likes to get there at 11:30, just as the bread is coming out of the large coal-fired brick oven...(which is over 100 years old) and he usually buys two or three loaves. We freeze some to bring back to Iowa -- but the biggest treat is to sit down and eat a fresh loaf of crusty bread, while it's still warm enough to melt butter.

Yes, I am a lucky, lucky girl!!

OMG..OMG...OMG...due to the miracle that is the Internet -- I found this article about Padora's Italian Bakery.  This is actually more than I ever knew about this bread and it's history.  Thank you, Al Gore...!!


Baked to perfection
Friday, February 26, 2010

By DONALD R. SERFASS

Lawrence "Mickey" Padora, 83, is a master baker who specializes in only one product - Italian bread.
Born Lorenzo Guiseppe Padora, Mickey has spent over 50 years making fresh, hard-crusted Italian bread in Tamaqua's Italian Bakery. The small, white wood-frame structure clings to the hillside unannounced at 122 Railroad Street. Locals call the area Pleasant Row.

Consumers say Padora's bread is without equal.

Demand for the tasty treat has allowed Padora and wife, Carolyn, to stay in business and raise six children - Donna, Anna, Michael, Johnny, Carol and Larry, all of whom did chores and pitched in to help at the bakery throughout the years.

The shop's yield is high. Orders vary each day. But it's not unusual for the one-room outfit to produce 500 loaves a day six days a week when orders mount.

While most of the product ends up in local stores and better restaurants, the golden brown loaves also get shipped to far away places. Padora's bread has been all across the country, plus to Ireland, Wales and Canada. One family was known to pack it in suitcases for their regular trips to Hawaii.

Much of the product, however, stays in homes and eateries in Schuylkill, Luzerne and Carbon counties. Some is used to make hoagies at Padora's Six Pack House, 209 Railroad St., a side business owned by the family.

The old Tamaqua Italian Bakery has been Padora's bread and butter for most of his life.
 "We only closed one year, it was during the Korean conflict in 1958," he says.

Everything about Padora's approach to breadmaking is special, from the Old World Italian recipe to his historic, century-old, open-hearth firebrick. It's fueled by buckwheat-sized anthracite coal.
"A state inspector once said he believes the bakery to be the only one of its kind in the state," says 36-year-old Larry, Padora's son and a bread baker in his own right.

Some believe the firebrick bake oven fueled by anthracite coal may be the only one in the country. In Tamaqua, the bakery is an institution and locals walk to the place to pick up their daily bread.
On June 11, 1998, Tamaqua's Italian Bakery was forced stop operations briefly when an essential piece of equipment went bad.

The bin on the dough mixer had worn through from years of use. The vintage apparatus, a motor-driven, 1913 Hobart Peerless Bread Machine from Sidney, Ohio, could no longer be used. Replacement parts were impossible to find.

"The company was still in business so we called and they were surprised to learn about the old machine still in use," says Larry.

Peerless had no solution to the problem and a new, computerized $65,000 doughmaker just wouldn't cut it.

A family friend, John "Sonny" Trudich Jr., came to the rescue. Trudich helped to remove the worn bin and directed the Padoras to a Tamaqua fabricator, Nestor's Iron Works. There, a thick steel band six feet long was manufactured and shaped to form a new bin. The bakery reopened on Saturday, just two days later.

The famous brick oven also was repaired once. Larry crawled inside the confined space to tend to the firebricks.

"You could never do it if you were claustrophobic," says Larry.

According to Mickey, the unusual dome-topped hearth measures about 21 X 20 feet. It gets its heat from a vortex of hot, fan-forced air shot from the coal fire. The fire is positioned beside the oven, not underneath. In full operation, temperatures can reach 1,200 degrees although the bread is normally baked at about 650.

Once fired, the bricks become hot and the oven retains its heat. The Padoras use about two tons of coal a month.

The unusual oven was built around the turn of the century by George (D'Allesio) Dallas, who commissioned experts from Italy to do the job.

Dallas operated the oven for several years before 1911 then leased it to Odoriso Sozio and sons who ran the business until the 1920s.

Afterward, it was taken over by one of Sozio's helpers, Emedio Zaraca, originally from Italy, who baked bread until his death in 1955.

Zaraca's wife Anna and son Robert continued for another year before turning it over to Mickey Padora.

Mickey learned the bread making technique while assisting Zaraca, he said.

Larry picked up the trade from his father but never let on that he knew how to do it until Mickey became hospitalized. While an inpatient, Mickey couldn't understand why hospital visitors mentioned that they were still enjoying the bread. Turns out, Larry had taken over the reins but never said a word.

"I think he was surprised," Larry says.

A reserved and modest man, Mickey is proud to point out that his bread is a wholesome, homemade product that contains no chemicals, additives or preservatives.

"We use an expensive, high-quality flour."

And there's no need for an oven timer because Padora instinctively knows when the loaves are ready, browned to a turn. At just the right moment, he reaches deep into the hot cavern using oversized, wooden spatula-type tools - with handles close to forty feet long - and retrieves the fully baked delight.

The healthful benefits of Padora's sugar and additive-free leavened bread have not gone unnoticed by local physicians and heart doctors. Some have recommended the bread to their patients.

Dale W. Freudenberger, president, Tamaqua Historical Society, says he, too, is a loyal customer.
"It's the finest, unique Italian bread I've had anywhere. It's outstanding, and I know what I'm talking about. My brother is an Italian bread connoisseur and he's tried breads from all over the country. He says nothing else even comes close."

For the Padora family, the bakery represents an honest, hard-working job producing a product known as the bread of life, common to everyman.

After all, people are individuals and everybody is unique. But bread, perhaps, is the one single common denominator, as basic as air and water.

"I've met some of the nicest people in here," says Mickey.

Larry agrees, noting that the business has provided an avenue to interact with people from all walks of life.

"Everybody has eaten this bread," says Larry, "from poor people to millionaires."

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Another miracle from the internet -- somebody posted a video of Mickey Padora.  My husband John spent 20 years talking to this guy, every fall, trying to pick his brain about how to make the perfect loaf of Italian bread...here are his secrets!! (Pat Leslie, you are going to LOVE this video)...