Saturday, December 31, 2011


Meet Pepper.
Of course, she could be Cookie. Or Sugar. Or Abbey Road (my vote).

She was found in an apartment parking lot in Tennessee, a rabies tag on her collar and milk still dripping from her underpinnings.

Initially, she was found by someone who took her to a vet, who gave her a rabies shot and a tag. Pepper clearly was somebody's dog, so the first rescuer took her home to her barn to await a reunion.

Pepper apparently wasn't too keen on her new digs, so she busted out and ended up in that parking lot, where she made a bee line for my friend's son.

Andy and his wife already have two rescue dogs (whose combined energy could power a sizable village) in their apartment.

Tennessee Animal Control was of no help.

The first rescuer was not forthcoming.

It was just days before Christmas and the road trip home to Naperville. No one would/could take on this sweet, intelligent and docile Staffordshire mix.

Tucking Pepper into the backseat with the rest of the herd, Andy and his family headed north, making calls from there to here. Humane Society. Family. Extended family. Home. Heaven.

A Christmas Eve inquiry at church resulted in a preliminary introduction that will take place tomorrow with a Chicago family with four (that's 1-2-3-4) Chihuahuas.

Based on Pepper's gentle interest in Bandit, our 1,000-year-old dog, I think it may turn out to be a successful meet-up.

If not, you'll help this sweet and deserving 1-year-old find a forever home, won't you?

I knew you would. Thank you.

We'll drink a cup of kindness yet. For auld lang syne.

And for Pepper/Cookie/Sugar/Abbey Road.

Thursday, December 29, 2011


Ever come across a photograph that made your heart stop?

My beauties were at a wedding several weeks ago. The music beckoned, and the photographer, Dory Tuohey, caught mother and child at just the right moment -- mid-dance, just as Betsy wrapped her shawl around the baby.

A picture for all time.

Happy New Year, everyone. And thanks for checking in with Naperville Now this year. I have appreciated your kind and thoughtful comments.

Keep dancing.

Monday, December 26, 2011

What Was Santa Thinking?

Meet Oscar, the latest addition to our daughter's life. His resemblance to The Little Rascals' Petey is quite good, but with better eye makeup.

Oscar is part American Bulldog, part Labrador (as evidenced by webby paws) and 100 percent lap dog. Currently weighing in at 60 pounds, he is still on his way to adulthood, so invest in Purina while you can.

Faithful readers will remember Naperville Now's Name That Cat post in July, when you were introduced to Tip, our daughter's rescue-cat-with-brain-damage.

From all accounts, Oscar's brain seems to be sans bobble. Furthermore, he knows some commands, is house-trained and could pull a pony trap without breaking a sweat.

He also is quite respectful of poor Tip, with whom he's gone nose to nose several times.

Tip is not amused.

My question is this: why do we persist in covering ourselves in pet hair?

Have you ever adopted a pet? Was it a good experience? Bad? A tweener?

Bandit, our 18-year-old Shih-Tzu, has been with us for 15 years, a $10 purchase from the Hinsdale Humane Society.

He was a pretty good deal, I think.

He's certainly a long-lived one, thus squashing the theory that too much pepperoni pizza is a bad thing.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

As Ready As I Get

C is for the crap I didn't get done this year, like decorating, buying gifts, cooking, cards, laundry, flossing and mailing presents. Working two jobs is exhausting. However, I have now carved it down to one just before a nervous breakdown, so C is also for content. Cosmos for everyone. Make mine a double.
H is for honestly, where does the time go? I have been fascinated by the concept of time since third grade, when we studied ancient Egypt and learned about mummies. Finding time, harnessing time, losing time, making good use of time. And while we're at it, read Joel Stein in Time Magazine. He is hysterically funny and I am wildly jealous of his columns.
R is for really great blogs, like the ones listed on the lower right of this page.  Treats for the soul, they are. The world is a better place because of them and I am better for having read them. Join me.
I is for the Internet. Naperville Now is very grateful for a place to hang her thoughts, even if she doesn't do it as often as she would like. Wiki says, "As of 16 February 2011 (2011 -02-16), there were over 156 million public blogs in existence." That, my friends, is a lot of words. Thank you, 46 followers, for reading mine. (Connie signed up twice, so I guess it's really 45.)
S is for Showers of Hope, an organization that supports poor children. My friend Sue is hosting a party tonight for her girlfriends so we can celebrate the season as well as contribute to this worthy cause. Great idea, Sue. Thanks for the invitation to help.
T is for threads -- of friendship, of family and those pesky quilts I aspire to bind in 2012.
M is for the many moms in my life. How great is it to have had more than one?
A is for aspirations. Good to have, good to try out, good to share.
S is for surprise. May our days be filled with the good kind.

                                                            photo styling by Charlie

Monday, December 19, 2011


And you thought I was being humble when I said I can't cook.

As you can see (and if you live in Naperville and Lisle, no doubt smell), it is entirely true.

I come by these talents from my mother, who preferred to make reservations for dinner rather than chicken or pot roast.

In fact, she was the first mother on the eastern seaboard to purchase Swanson's Frozen TV Dinners. (Remember the taste of turkey and mashed potatoes in that divided aluminum pan? Yikes, that was awful. But novel, so points for that.)

If I win the lottery, I shall hire a housekeeper to make sense of all these complicated recipes. And then I'll write a book on how not to cook.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


If you start your shopping eight days before Christmas, the word scramble doesn't begin to cover it.

Add a dusting of the white stuff and it puts a whole new dimension to panic.

Actually, the snow calmed my world down a bit because I had to locate boots and find a coat long enough to cover my PJs while I took these pictures.

(I know, she needs a sweater -- and a home in the garage until spring. Still working on the garden relo project. So far, winter is winning.)

I think I am reining in what I do at Christmas mainly because I am tired. And perfectly content to check out these blogs for really great eye candy:

The Brambleberry Cottage: Liz has opened her blog each Thursday to links to other blogs. Six degrees of Kevin Bacon is nothing compared to this enchanting multi-level daisy chain of great ideas, great interiors and some serious decorating over-achievers. I have only recently discovered the link party aspect of blogging. Liz's button link to Time Travel Thursday is right over there on the right side of this page. See it over there just under the thumbnails of Naperville Now's friends? Personal and creative connections made by possible by the Internet. Amazing. Click and feast your eyes.

Jenny Matlock -- Off On My Tangent: Jenny does the link party on her blog three times a week via Alphabe-Thursday, Story-Time Tuesday, and Saturday-Centus (I am unclear on the meaning of centus. Google was less than helpful, and I don't have enough self-esteem to ask Jenny.) It's a fun way to "meet" other bloggers and see who (and what) is going on out there. And because of link "rules," if you post on Jenny's site, she asks (nicely) that you read at least 10 links. This, my friends, is very easy to do. Many of her readers have left me great comments (which have gone straight to my head.) Thanks, everyone. I needed that. (The Alphabe-Thursday link button is that typewriter over there on the right.)

Faded Charm Cottage: Kathleen hosts White Wednesday on her blog, where people link their blogs and mad creative skills. Lots of fun, lots of links, lots of reasons to ignore your responsibilities and yearn for the time (and talent) to do half of what is made manifest in these pictures.

Symbiotic, satisfying, sustaining. It is enough for me to see what others are doing.

Which leads me to my most favorite outdoor decoration ever. Thanks, Sheri, for letting me post your fabulous sign.

"He HADN'T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other it came just the same!
Maybe Christmas, he thought, "doesn't come from a store.
Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . .
means a little bit more!"

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Real Smart

Smartphones are making me feel very unsmart.

I've had the opportunity to screw up use an iPhone in the past few days, to my unending frustration (and the mirth of the phone's owner).

Naperville Now's phalanges just do not pfly like they used to. And they may function about as well as this fellow's.

(But I do know the word phalanges, so that has to count for something.)

I have purposely refused to jump on the iPhone bandwagon because, to quote my friend Phil,  "I don't want to be hip or cool." I so get that. I am so that.

And of course, I expect these texting gloves will really help this winter.

(What? No texting mittens for the advanced?)

I like my phone. It's old, functional and even has a qwerty keyboard. And that is the limit of its capabilities.

Our kids all have iPhones. And they never click through to the links of hilarious stuff I send them.

 "My connection's too slow for that."
"Well, use the computer."
"This IS a computer. In my pocket."
"Fine, if you don't want to see the almost-naked guy in the French candy commercial."
"Resend that link."

Technology moves ever onward and advance we must. Adapt we must. And practice we must.

If you have any fingertip tips, drop me a note. Or txt.

Misspellings forgiven.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Dear Charlotte,

Our hearts are very full today.

You were baptized just after 9 this morning, and everyone was there to see you.

You wore the same gown your mother wore 29 years ago (a gift from your great-grandmother, Betty) and the same cross necklace, a gift from Auntie Joyce.

So many connections. So many memories. A few tears. (Maybe a few more than a few.)

Auntie Joyce hand smocked the bonnet (crazy detail. hours of work. so precious) for your mother's baptism.

Bonnets are not particularly nap-friendly, so it was tucked away.

You pretty much snoozed through the entire service.

Many friends came to welcome you.

Big brother observed you had forgotten to say "Cheese!" in the many photographs I was taking, so here he is showing you how to do it.

Brothers are really great for stuff like that.

How blessed we are to have shared this day with you.

Sweet dreams, darling girl.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Lights, Camera, Nap

Raise your hand if you think it's okay if I stop the tree decking with just twinkle and bubble lights this year.

Thanks. I believe I will.

Looks good, right?

(A new book and the couch are calling my name this dreary Sunday. The decorations, not so much.)

I found a few of the old boys for the mantel.

And I unearthed these from my childhood:

When my brothers closed out our apartment in New York many years ago, an enormous truck delivered all the geegaws and doodads and blonde furniture that had been our parents'. Of all the china, glassware and 1940s-era stuff that made the cross-country trip, only the O in NOEL was damaged.

Seems appropriate it was the O. As in, "O! Kansas City? Never heard of it." (New York angels are very sassy.)

I never did find the missing bit.

My brothers, both thousands of years older than I am, took great joy in rearranging the choir each Christmas. LEON was one variation. Another:

As in, "ELNO we won't go!" Afterall, it was the 1960s.

Much, much later came the final anagram, unimaginable when these girls first were made 60+ years ago:

If you're thinking we have too much time on our hands, you would be right. I could have had the entire tree decorated by now.

Instead, we've been busy stirring the first batch of the season:

And what says Christmas more than Chex cereal baked in too much butter and Seasoned Salt?

Care to share your odd Christmas memories? I'd love to hear them. Leave me a comment.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I See Them

One of the things that I inherited from my mother, besides her love of writing and an indifference to cooking, was a box of genealogical notes on many, many pieces of paper.

A grandfather listed here. A birthplace recorded there. A photograph. A partially completed family tree. Anecdotes. All in her small and careful script. This was the project she'd been working on in her retirement.

Somewhere along the way, this box ended up with me, as did the silver and china. And in one of my bursts of "Let's organize this place!", I purchased a genealogy program that I was quite sure would convert those hundreds of scraps about dead people and sort them onto a new-fangled DOS program called Family Roots.

As is the way of things, those scraps multiplied like rabbits, and I now have several tons of paper of my own. (Lest you think me hopelessly behind the times, I do have Family Tree Maker 2011, a most excellent software program for those who would seek dead people. Can't quite manage to tame the piles of paper, however.)

Through the years,  I have been unable to make a lot of headway. My friend Gary has his family going back to the Norman conquest. As for me and mine, we are stuck in 1819 in New York City.

But occasionally, something miraculous does happen to rev up the hunt. This morning I discovered a fantastic website that is a New York newspaper database. And it's searchable! And free! Called Old Fulton New York Post Cards, it has 17.5 million newspaper pages from my old state.

This morning, instead of doing what I should do, I stumbled on this:

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle front page from June 18, 1915:  "Brooklyn Boys Who Were Graduated From Pennsylvania."

And who is smack dab in the middle? My grandfather.

Here he is a little less newsprinty:

I knew he went to the University of Pennsylvania to become a dental surgeon, but frankly, this newspaper wasn't among anyone's stash of memorabilia.

I may be the first Littell in 96 years to look at this newspaper.

I'm glad to see you, Pop.

You wouldn't be able to confirm your grandfather was George, veteran of the War of 1812, by any chance?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Because It's Just What We Do

Outdoor Christmas decorations, like cooking, are highly overrated, especially in Chicago.

The garland we bought from the Boy Scouts showed up on the porch about 10 days ago.

It is now 36 degrees and raining, of course.

Charlie and I have spent the last hour securing and sizing up the garland across the porch. We used "close enough" more than once to characterize our handiwork. And, by golly, it just has to be.

I am typing this post with my nose because I cannot feel my fingers.

Will someone please remind me NOT to buy a garland next year from an adorable 10-year-old in uniform?

Thank you.

What are your outdoor decorating preferences? I'd love to hear what you do, where you do it and with what (and whom).

Believe it or not, I steamed these stupid bows, not that it made a difference.
My fingers are too frozen to do further ribbon fluffing.
Bring on the hot toddies.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Food, Glorious Food

After preparing us a plate of spaghetti with canned sauce, my friend Kathy said, "Remember, I'm a writer, not a cook."

I have lived by that ever since. It covers every eventuality in the kitchen and serves as the perfect excuse for eating out, something my husband and I do a lot.

While I do make exceptions (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, exhausted), cooking is just not my thing. It's a time-consuming, messy, math-heavy activity that is never as good as the photographs. And even if I really, really concentrate on a good outcome, it rarely happens.

I'd much rather read a book.

And now, three days shy of Charlie's favorite day of the year (like the Old Man in A Christmas Story, he is a turkey junky), I am schlepping canned goods from one end of the Jewel to the other.

After queuing in the checkout, a senior citizen continually whacked my backside with her cart.

Lady, I cannot move ahead in the checkout line because there is nowhere to move.

I haven't begun to cook and already I'm thinking Chinese restaurant.

My family is particular about food traditions. I bore myself silly cooking the same old things (that's you, green bean casserole). But try to swap out a few dishes and you'd think Santa wasn't coming to town.

When I mentioned the possibility of a new dish this year (keeping in mind our 2 1/2 year old grandson), our daughter told me I was making her nervous.

"What's this new thing you're making?"

"Something Zach might like."

"What is it?"

"Wouldn't you rather be surprised?"

"No way. Tell me."

"Mac and cheese. With Gruyère."

"Oh. Well. That's probably okay. But there must be spinach casserole. And don't forget the crescent rolls like you did last year."

"I don't remember that."


"How about you figure out the desserts?"

"Why can't you make sherbet parfaits like you did last year?"

I don't remember making parfaits last year. At all. Clearly, it was such an innovation that I dazzled myself into forgetting all about it.

What do you make for Thanksgiving that your family can't live without?

For us, it's Stephen's Spinach Casserole. Below is the recipe, the first -- and only -- time Naperville Now will ever post anything to do with cooking.

Spinach Casserole
2 packages frozen chopped spinach (The stuff in a box. Birds Eye is superior.)
6 oz. cream cheese at room temperature (use the remaining 2 oz. on a bagel)
8 Tablespoons butter, softened (yup, the entire stick)
2 Tablespoons Parmesan cheese (grated, ground, your preference)
1 can artichoke hearts, well-drained (you can buy big; you can buy quartered; it's all the same, just not the marinated in oil kind.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare spinach according to directions. Transfer to sieve (I own one of these precisely because of this recipe) and press out excess moisture with a fork or spoon.

Mix cream cheese and butter; stir into hot spinach.

Place cut artichokes on bottom of casserole. Cover with spinach mixture. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Bake 30 minutes. Recipe is easily doubled.

Whole Foods. You didn't really think I made this, did you?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rescue Me Update

A week ago, a stray cat wandered into my friend's life.

I asked, I pled (pleaded?), I even begged a little. No one was willing to take on the black and white hot mess that followed Carol around the backyard like a dog.

She took her this-is-not-my-cat to the vet for a much-needed tune-up shortly after that post.

He was pronounced quite healthy, despite a few battle scars and a sniffle.

Temperatures dipped into the 20s.

He moved into the house proper.

Carol named him Oliver Twist.

Of course, once you name something, you're sunk.

"But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?"
                                                                   T. S. Eliot
Welcome to the neighborhood, Oliver.

You have a keen eye for upholstery and the tender-hearted.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


This Christmas cactus is the only houseplant I haven't managed to murder.

As soon as it's vaguely warm out, I take him to the patio and overlook him for three months. He is used to neglect as I don't do much for him during the rest of the year either. I guess the vagaries of Chicago's summer and my poor memory suit him to a T.

In October, after a good scrub, he resumes his place in the living room and blooms like mad. As soon as the blossoms fall off, he becomes depressed and goes all droopy until it's time to live outside again.

This sounds quite a bit like me, actually.

I divided this plant earlier this year. His twin, currently being neglected at our daughter's house, is blooming happily.

Have you had luck with houseplants? Have a favorite? Leave me a comment.

Monday, November 14, 2011


(Part I of this series began here, with Part II here, should you prefer your stories in a linear fashion.)

"Well, it's done. And so, to sleep."

"You held out a long time, my friend."

"Feeling very stark. The kids playing around us in this mild weather isn't helping."

"Look around. We're in good company now. Every tree's a little diminished, but everyone's coping, for the most part."

"By the way, when did they get here?"

"Last week. You were snoozing during all of the leaf gathering and arguing about which 'fork' they should use to build their winter perch."

Yawns. "I have been sleeping more. Too much gray, too many clouds."

"But you overlooked some other new arrivals." 

"Nice twigs. Woven and not flung together like some squirrels I know."

"Hey, now."

"Hey yourself." Yawns. "Keep an eye on all of the coming and going, okay? And wake me in four months."

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."

"You write that?"

"Borrowed from Shakespeare. The Tempest."

"Ugh, don't remind me. I hate winter. And I miss my green."

"It's a good color on you."


"Until March, then."

"Don't kid yourself. April's more like it."

"Okay, then. See you in leaf time."

"By the way, are squirrels sanitary?"

"Not so much."

 "That is disgusting."

"Cost of doing business, I'm afraid. But there'll be plenty of snow, sleet and rain ahead to keep us tidy."

"The good and bad news of precipitation in Chicago. Alas, there's nothing more to be done."

"Except rest. And dream."

"I'll be dreaming about a nice wind storm relocating those squirrels across the street."


"Uh oh. The parkway Maple!"

"Now you've done it."

"Have not."

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Rescue Me

My pal Carol, who lives next to a forest in Naperville, has found a stray cat.

Kitty is in need of a home. Also some antibiotics due to what sounds like a respiratory infection.

He may also need a little help with some tail scratches incurred in the wild.

If you can open your heart and pocketbook to this little guy/guyette, send an email to Carol at witchaywm(at)aol(dot)com. (You get that I have monkeyed with her email so she doesn't get spammed, right?)

Or leave me a comment and I will forward your message to Carol, who regrets she is unable to care for Kitty long-term.

(That cat is pretty cute. Bandit would have a heart attack, so I'm afraid we are out of the running on this.)

Friday, November 11, 2011


To those who are serving and those who have served, our heartfelt thanks.

Lt. Frank D. Littell
Big Spring, TX -- 1942

Midshipman Al Johnpeter
New York, NY -- 1943

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Accept No Substitutes

After a 3-day, madcap visit to St. Louis to look at (all of the) wedding dresses (that have ever been made), it is time to contemplate this vision in violet.

I am very proud of Betsy for coordinating little Charley's ensemble today. Her Aunt Sis will be very proud when she sees her niece styling just so this Wednesday afternoon.

More details to follow on the 2012 wedding plans, just not tonight.

I can tell you the dress we found for Anna is so lovely, I gasped. Several times, I think. Jumping may have been involved. Also multiple pictures and cell phone calls to Chicago.

How great it is to know you've found the one.

So, my marrieds, have any wedding gown stories to share? Naperville Now is all ears, so leave a comment.

(I just unpacked my 31-year-old dress last month. It has a certain Miss Havisham-like quality to it, I fear. But no worries. Should I need a wedding gown, and who doesn't, I have another. I wore it to a fancy ball and my high school graduation, which is how we do things back east.)

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Between Bandit, babysitting the next generation and unwrapping KitKat bars that magically did not leave the house on Halloween, I have fallen behind on Naperville Now. My apologies.

Our 1,000-year-old dog, whose brushes with death have been numerous and terrifying, woke up Thursday unable to walk. His body was skewing right, causing him to fall down like a mad drunk. Added bonus: the imbalance thing caused him to vomit pretty much across every surface of the house.

Dr. McIntyre, The Welcome Waggin' vet who makes housecalls, determined his condition to be not a stroke but vestibular disease. It is ideopathic, manifests suddenly (particularly in older dogs), and is awful to watch.

A magic shot set him nearly to rights and bits of liverwurst throughout the day sustained his rebound. By Friday night, he had managed the two steps out to the yard and back under his own steam. He was even a little peppy, all things considered.

While Bandit looks like a ghost dog (we've had him groomed since this picture was shot), he somehow manages to keep tabs on who has an English muffin or a bowl of chips (and who might be willing to share).

Today, the granddchildren are in our care, and I apologize, old dog, for the disruption and love and chasing they provide. You have never been a fan of little kids but have suffered them with grace. They are reliable sources of food, afterall, and in this life, that is no small thing.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Our Pumpkins

About 10 years ago, my husband discovered a talent for carving pumpkins.

Actually, I discovered a book of templates and carving do-hickies at Michael's. Charlie began to explore his carving proclivities, and the rest is Halloween history.

Serrated knives -- check.
Pointilist wheels -- check.
Templates -- check.
Junior Mints (to keep up one's strength) -- check.

This is my all-time favorite template. The mouth reads Naperville. Our carver, however, does not like to duplicate himself. Ergo, we can only have this carving every two years in order to stay fresh and inspired.

The only step in the process that I am involved in is drawing the circle around the stem. (It's a lot of responsibility.) Charlie does all the actual carving. 

Raise your hand if this makes you queasy.

The results, however, are always worth it.

And now, with the advent of on the iPhone, one can carve whilst listening to the Eagles play Dallas and take one's time while outlining witch hair. (Football on a phone. That is some kind of magic.)

And tomorrow night, we get to go trick-or-treating with Buzz

and a blue-eyed Lady Bug.

Have fun tomorrow night.

Come check out our pumpkins.

Bring candy.