Monday, December 31, 2012


I just can't commit to making New Year's resolutions.

When I quit smoking in 1991, I figured resolving to breathe was enough resolution for one lifetime.

But I am grateful to and for many things:

Having everyone home for Christmas for the first time in 4 years. (Here's to dispensing with the sit-down feast on Christmas Day and having appetizers served from the kitchen table.  Watching a 3-year-old gleefully rip into a present beats wrangling a turkey any day.)

Our backyard. Filled with trees, hostas and a relentless supply of chipmunks, we are grateful for the lush shade and surprising beauty. Thanks, Dave, for making us look good. Thanks, Charlie, for carrying the landscape baton so well.

Young House Love, a fabulous house blog written by a young couple in Richmond, VA, who describe themselves as "hopeless DIYers." Funny, informative, filled with great pictures, it is home improvement lived vicariously. Bottom line -- I love progress, even if it is someone else's.

Downton Abbey, resuming next Sunday. I love you, PBS. Thank you for broadcasting one delightful show after an other. And if you see Julian Fellowes, tell him this writer is available and can start on next season's script im-me-djetly.

Possibility. The room I write in is filled with it. Fabric, paint, books, an old typewriter, sewing machine, pens, art, antiques, photographs, a multitude of  projects in mid-creation. I am inspired by what I see, even if I'm not as fast as I would like completing things.

Between now and your first champagne, make a list of what fills you with gratitude and let me know what you've discovered. I am always grateful for a good list.

Each week Naperville  Now participates in Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. This week we will be studying the letter G. See what other Alphabetarians are writing about here.

Thursday, December 27, 2012


As you know, Naperville Now is not (and never will be) a cook.

At Christmas, however, some insane urge comes over me to do something a little different with the menu involving jello, which is odd because I don't especially care for jello and I never make it at any other time of the year.

But seasonal jello madness descends, and I am captive.

The Pioneer Woman featured a stacked jello recipe on her blog and I was smitten.

A mere 2 1/2 hours of my life later, I got this:

I can't claim that it tasted particularly fabulous, but it did stack. And it was the highlight  of baby Charlotte's Christmas dinner.

With the time it takes to prepare a meal for 8, squandering spending hours on jello doesn't make a lot of sense. And a 9 by 13 pan makes more jello than any one family will ever need in this life, or the next.

But it was definitely festive.

Naperville Now participates each week in Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. See what others have to say about the letter F here.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Monday, December 24, 2012

December Girls

Dear Mom,

Happy Birthday from one December girl to another.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Eight Points

When the Chicago Tribune publishes its year-end Best Of lists, I am compelled to read them all. Books missed, movies overlooked, news events that were off my radar. A year skimmed in 60 seconds. This is how I fill in the blanks.

Facebook can even make a timeline of your year, as long as you grant them permission to rifle through your underwear drawer. I prefer to do my own rifling, thank you, so here's my 2012 timeline:
  • Celebrating the 90th birthday of Betty, my mother-in-law, in February. She was enchanted by her great-granddaughter Natalie, 8 months, who entertained all of us from her perch at the table.
  • Zach, our candidate for the Class of 2027, turned 3. His mom had cake and ice cream for all the kids in the neighborhood but asked they hold off on the presents. "He has enough stuff. Just come for the fun." And they did.
  • A tough spring. We lost Betty. In the same week, we lost our 18-year-old dog, Bandit. We are officially erasing April 2012 from our memory banks.
  • Sorting through a lifetime accumulation of stuff in the family home has made me realize we need less stuff. It seems the less chaos around me (the basement doesn't count because I'm afraid to go down there), the clearer I am. This world needs as much clarity as it can get. I need as much clarity as I can get. Here is a fabulous essay on the topic of stuff. Read it and be transformed.
  • Stephen and Kevin's wedding in Pound Ridge. I managed two brief speeches, was a witness and did not choke up (too much), though my heart was very full. A beautiful day in a gorgeous setting, surrounded by loving family, friends, the poetry of Walt Whitman and really excellent French champagne. 
  • My hunt for a job continued, after a cat bite retired me from the veterinarian assistant business. The job market has been a little tight for print journalists. Is it too late to become an archaeologist?
  • Our Charley turned 1. She is completely fearless, a remarkable and terrifying quality in a baby. She is, of course, adorable.
  • Anna married her Greg in August. Weddings are exhausting, expensive and lots of fun. Theirs was one of 9 weddings we attended this year. Call Me Maybe by Carly Rae Jepsen is our favorite dance tune. We bounce like mad.

I had in mind to write about 57 things from 2012, but 8 seems to be the most I can manage.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks for reading, for commenting, and for following. You make my day. Thanks for being part of mine.

Naperville Now participates each week in Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. See what other bloggers are writing about here.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Postcards from the Capitol

My brother-in-law accepted an invitation to attend a holiday party at the White House.

Best. Christmas.Present.Ever.

Unless it would be a digital camera that takes way better pictures than his iPhone.
(Dear Santa, please make sure Kevin gets a Nikon 10.2-Megapixel DSLR Camera with 18-55mm and 55-200mm NIKKOR Zoom Lenses before the next White House holiday party. Thank you.)

Clearly, Aaron Sorkin's set for The West Wing was astoundingly accurate.

Kevin is a keen student of history and loves architectural details. (We have that in common.)

(Isn't this where Michael Douglas tells Annette Bening, "Nice shoes" in The American President?)

Kevin writes: "Had about 7 Christmas cookies. Would have had more but they were watching."

I don't believe the hosts dusted off the Franklin Pierce china (1853-1857) for the buffet.

Dolley Madison was in attendance, however.

A view for the ages.

Haven't been to Washington, let alone a party at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in I don't know when. I think it may be time to plan a visit.

Have you been to the Capitol? What did you see? What do you recommend? Where did you stay? Did you see a POTUS/FLOTUS while you were there? Kindly check in in the Comments section. Naperville Now loves to travel, even vicariously, which is much easier on her feet.

With thanks to Kevin for sharing his photographs.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Friday, December 14, 2012

Fiscal Shmiscal

I have never had an aptitude for math, which is why I can be of little help with this fiscal cliff business.

I do know that if one's expenses exceed one's income, there will be a lot of yelling. But beyond that, I rely on Charlie to keep us on the financial straight and narrow (with emphasis on that last).

Which is why I propose the math teachers from my past travel to Washington to assist Congress and President Obama with this terrifying but surely fixable mess.

First up: Miss Owsley (7th grade geometry, with fractions and decimals thrown in somewhere): She was mad for dissecting shapes with a yellow grease pencil on an overhead projector. Students used string and chalk to draw their parabolas on the blackboard. (I remember the vocabulary but none of the concepts.)

Miss O. was quite old, having taught my brothers, 7 and 10 years older than I, in the same classroom. She may have trilled like the actress Deborah Kerr, but she knew her stuff and never gave up hope that one day, numbers would make sense to me. They didn't, but I propose that she go to Washington and start grease penciling her way through the country's budget mess. (I am fairly certain that I flunked her final but was allowed to move on because another year would've killed her. That, my friends, is called compromise.)
Secondly: Mr. Long, 9th grade Algebra. He had very nice hair and readily surmised that I was undone by algebraic (FOIL!) formulas. He arranged for a 10th grader, Carlynn, to be my year-long tutor. They were both enthusiastic teachers, convinced that I would eventually get this numbers thing. And while that never happened, they never gave up, so I'm sending Mr. Long and Carlynn to start the fix.

Lastly, Mrs. Barnes (10th and 11th grade math, the last remedial): With her sharp mind and New Yawk accent, she could definitely balance the budget (and yell loudly while doing it). I think what this country needs is more people like Mrs. Barnes. With humor, gimlet eye, and an astounding grasp of mathematics, she can make straight our fiscal paths.

Into the mix, I volunteer my brother the M.B.A. (definitely the right guy to be your numbers man) and Charlie (also with an M.B.A. but, more importantly,  having fiscally prudent DNA strands in abundance).

And there's Jan from church, who can launch a Vacation Bible School program for 300 kids on $19.99 because she knows how -- and where -- to source her deals. And there's Marilyn, who can create art from tinsel and fairy dust, sell it and raise buckets of money for charity.

It can be done, people.

Just not by me.


Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Dandy Cheesecakes

As most of you know, this blog is never about cooking, mainly because I come from a long line of writers.

Cooking is work. It is under appreciated and, thank you God, readily available outside my kitchen.

Genetics. Laziness. Call it what you will. I just don't see the point. (And besides, haven't we all eaten enough?)

In Christmases past, we've been known to enjoy gourmet Chinese in homage to Ralphie and his turkey-less family. Alas, our out-of-town company were scandalized, so I was compelled to dust off the roasting pan and deal with necks and gizzards. Yuck.

I admire all of you adventurous cooks out there, but from a distance. And with zero longing.

In honor of the season, however, we are hosting a petit gathering on Sunday evening. Everyone is bringing something, but I am doing dessert, thanks to the inspiration of my neighbor Beth. She owns nearly every gizmo purveyed by Sur la Table, including mini-cheesecake pans. Seriously. She served up a herd of these babies at book club. I have read the recipe and believe that even I can make these. Or not, which is why white fudge Oreo cookies are my back up.

Here's Beth's recipe:

Makes 24 mini cheesecakes. 

Canned cherry pie filling
Lemon curd with blueberries or blueberry pie filling
Hot fudge with mixed nuts OR crushed peppermint candies (candy canes)
Orange marmalade with cranberry orange sauce

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For a simple graham cracker crust:

1 C graham cracker crumbs
¼ C butter, melted
¼ C sugar 

Mix the crust ingredients together. Spray pan lightly with PAM and divide the mixture equally between cups and press down.
1         8oz. package cream cheese, softened (OR ricotta cheese)
¾ C  white sugar
2         tsp. vanilla
2         egg whites
¾ C  sour cream 

Beat cream cheese, sugar and vanilla in large mixing bowl with electric mixer until well blended. Add egg whites, mix well. Then add sour cream and mix thoroughly. Pour equally into cups , almost to the top.

Bake 20 minutes or until center is almost set. Turn off oven, leaving oven door open for another 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and refrigerate until chilled. When ready to serve, top each with a topping (or let guests fix their own).

I'm going to practice on Saturday. Charlie is an enthusiastic tester, so if quality is a problem, he will be mostly honest with me, I think.

Now, if I can just figure out where this whole project will go wrong, I'll be prepared with those cookies. And lots of champagne.

Naperville Now participates  each week in Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Stop in and see what other bloggers are writing about the letter D.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Someone said there's a wedding. Can I go?

Wednesday, December 5, 2012



I had the idea that these would be the perfect stand-in for actually putting up a Christmas tree this year.

Is it working for you?

And what do you think of Christmas in pink?

And what do you think of the whole rebirth of the 1950s elf phenomenon? (They were creepy to me even back then, though I confess to having watched far too many Twilight Zone episodes with my sci-fi-obsessed brothers.)

Each December, my pal Nancy and I like to roam around the Geneva Antique Market, which is where I took these tree pictures. If you are into shiny and tidy, this is the store for you. (They didn't pay me to write that, I just like shiny and tidy. Also stray Renoirs, but they were fresh out.)

I never seem to be ready for Christmas. So many stray ends, so much to do. Sidetracked in the stores and sidetracked out.

Just my 2-cents worth, though in this economy, everything's going up.

Each week, Naperville Now participates in Mrs. Matlock's Alphabe-Thursday. Check out what other bloggers are posting about the letter C.

Monday, December 3, 2012

My Old Kentucky Home

We were on the hunt for my Revolutionary War ancestor in Lexington, KY, over the weekend.

James, who had fought from Virginia, moved his family about 20 minutes south of where we were sipping bourbon at the office Christmas party. (In the interest of full disclosure, I am more of a white wine girl, should you be compiling your gift list.)

We carved out a quick look-see into what is now mostly horse country and grape vineyard.

I could imagine a barn just like this.

And a house like this.

Given the exigencies of the very early 19th century, it seems unlikely (and too Architectural Digesty) to be anyone's then-homestead.

But then! We found this very early house. Definitely more substantial than a dog-trot cabin. (Needless to say, the ancestral paperwork doesn't mention an estate.)

This is probably more along the lines of what's left.
(While I'm thinking of it, thank you to the residents of Fayette County for not shooting me as I tried to crane my neck around 200 years for a glimpse of James, or what might be left of his life in Kentucky.)

(#M.NightShyamalan check out your next movie set.)
Stacked stone walls range everywhere in this part of the country.
One-laner, just west of where we are deducing
James and his wife are buried.
I'll keep you posted if we catch a break with a homeowner who may remember seeing a tumble of rocks in the corner of his pasture.
So, anyone else out there drawn to this particular (or as my brother likes to point out, mind-numbing) past time? What exactly have you done with your genealogy? Do you see dead people? Leave me a comment.