What’s In My Book Pile?

This winter has brought a delicious crop of books to my pile! I am in the middle of all of these but couldn’t wait to share so hoping they end as well as they started 🙂

I love asking friends (and strangers!) what they are reading as well as politely snooping on bookshelves. Thought you might be curious too so here’s what I’m reading now:

Morning reading, along with prayers, journal and Bible reading:

I heard about this book at my cousin’s church and the sermon itself was enough to lead me right to purchasing this challenging book. My favorite line so far: “Living with compassion is a different story. It requires action. it compels us to get up close and personal with people. We can’t practice presence from a distance. And we can’t outsource presence to God – because he has already assigned it to us. No Easy Jesus

Also in the morning pile is this reading-for-every-day book, “Younger by the Day: 365 Ways to Rejuvenate Your Body and Revitalize Your Spirit” by Victoria Moran. Some years back I had the privilege of participating in the pre-publication focus group for this inspiring book. I loved it then and am savoring it each day once again. Timeless wisdom from someone who lives what she teaches. Younger by the Day

Late afternoon end-of-work day reading with a cup of tea:

I read about this book in the Tribune and was immediately hooked by the inside cover: ..”explores why certain brief experiences can jolt us and elevate us and change us – and how we can learn to create such extraordinary moments in our life and work.” Doesn’t this sound right up my alley? I borrowed it from the local library but needed to own it so I could mark it up! The Power of Moments

Nightstand reading for a few moments before falling to sleep:  (Also good for a train ride!)

This is my second  Susan Meissner novel and I absolutely loved A Fall of Marigolds (recommended by my friend) so I decided to check this one out too. Historical fiction, my favorite genre, covering the Spanish Flu and WW1 times with a lot of family stories. I have another one of hers on reserve at the library. So fun to find a new-to-me-author! As Bright as Heaven.

One more that was on the pile until I finished it: Couldn’t put it down! Historical fiction with back and forth past/present.  Before We Were Yours

What’s in your book pile?

Hope for the best,



Hola! Adios!

I don’t think I got the “language” gene. I concluded there must be one when I realized I didn’t have it. Nothing about speaking another language seems easy or even possible most days. Like playing piano. I endured years of lessons for that skill too. Must be a related gene.

Yes, my high school offered languages: Latin and French. I tried them both, two years each. “Et cum spiritu tuo” and “bon voyage” are my remnants from those classes. I made one more effort to take “adult beginners French” in my 20’s because I thought that would be cool but same results. Tres bien not.

I thought my language-learning days were over…until about ten years ago when my Colombian-born son-in-law entered my life. Well, not at first, his English is just fine. I thought about trying to learn Spanish but didn’t get around to it. I sort of knew how to count to ten from our Sesame Street years but rarely needed to use that skill.

Until we went to Colombia in 2015. My zip-a-dee-doo-dah Espanol was apparent to all. I decided to make more of an effort, but I didn’t. Now we’re going back.

This time, I have a private tutor, my granddaughter. She is quite fluent for her three plus years and always very patient with me. “How do you say____ in Spanish?” and she always knows. How is it so easy for kids?

To add to my training, in case she’s taking a siesta or something, I downloaded “Duo Lingo,” a free app which makes it easy and fun to pick up a few phrases. I now know I am a mujer who come manzanas (woman who eats apples.)  That will get me far! I do get the pronouns mixed up though and most other words for that matter. Ayuda!

I am confident, that my “so wonderful to see you” hug will be interpreted just fine when we see relatives. Gracias works well in most situations. Some statements need no words.

I’m hoping to get to 8% soon.

Do you have the language gene?

Hope for the best,


“The Sick Cup”and Other Delights of a Day at Home.

I was secretly excited when my daughter-in-law asked me if my 9-year-old grandson could come over for the day. She was on her way out-of-town and he had a bit of a fever and couldn’t go to school. Crazy, but I really enjoyed my kid’s minor sick days years ago and was eager to play nurse again.

A “slight fever” was always the best kind of sick day. I’m speaking at a retreat this weekend so knew I could keep on working during his movie time, but we could still get a game or two and a few stories in.

A few decades ago, a day home from school for our four also meant a visit to the “sick cabinet” on the back porch: A tall metal storage piece from my husband’s Czech grandmother that landed with us after her death. Originally laden with her homemade pickles and jam, we filled it with toys, books and movies which could only be played with on a verified sick day. Verified that is by a thermometer or frequent bathroom visits.

(No, we didn’t buy all these items.) Our extended family supplied our kids with oodles of toys at Christmas, many more that we did. Before they got too attached to the new items, I swooped a few up and stuck them in the cabinet. Garage sale finds added to the supply. Everything was “new” on sick day! As soon as health rebounded, all items returned to the cabinet until the next time. The plan worked.

The other bonus of the day at home was to get to use “The Sick Cup.” A somewhat gaudy light green goblet once won by my mother at the Illinois State Fair when the carnival worker failed to guess her age correctly and took about ten years off. She didn’t need the “prize” after that elation and offered me the cup. Right away I decided how I would use it.

So I climbed on a stool a little while ago and reached the old glass from the top shelf where it has always resided. After a good cleaning, I filled it with juice and handed it to my grandson to sip during his movie.

Wasn’t it just last week I stood in the same kitchen and filled the same cup for one of mine?

With all the winter illness going around in my circle of friends (I took my turn too!) maybe it’s time to create “sick” specialties for ourselves as well. A new book, movie or TV series, special beverage, soft tissues or even pajamas to wear only on under-the-weather days. Cute ones! Best gather that now while health is strong. At least I already have a sick cup!

Hope for the best,


Dinner Special Tonight! (with recipe)

I can tell I’m finally past the holidays when I feel like making something new for dinner. During the long, fun-filled stretch from Thanksgiving to Tom’s January 15 birthday, the what-to-make-for-dinner question is usually answered by looking around. Most of the time I have stuff on hand or in my grocery cart for our favorites: Soups, stir-fries, fish, and Saturday night homemade pizza. I don’t have an Instant Pot but get similar results on slo-mo with items from the pantry and fridge I throw in the crock pot, sans recipe.

Last night I felt creativity slipping back in and decided to look for a fresh idea for dinner. A good sign for me that my holiday hiatus was back in storage with the Christmas decorations.

I probably could have tried anything new-to-us but decided on Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups. I only had to pick up a few items and was good to go. In case that sounds good to you too, here is the recipe:

Thai Turkey Lettuce Cups

  • 3 Tbsp. canola oil (I used sesame oil)
  • 3 Tbsp. reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 12 Butter Lettuce Leaves (I used Romaine, Butter would have worked better)
  • 1 ½ C chopped English cucumber (the seedless kind)
  • 1 C shredded carrots (bought them already shredded)
  • ¼ C chopped peanuts (also purchased pre-chopped)
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped mint (omitted)

Combine 2 Tbsp. of the soy sauce, sugar, vinegar in a bowl, stir with whisk.

Heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and brown the turkey. Cook about 7 minutes, stir till crumbly.

Add ¼ cup of the soy sauce mixture, cook about 4 minutes till absorbed.

Place about 3 tablespoons turkey inside of each lettuce wrap, top with carrots, cucumber and chopped peanuts, drizzle remaining soy sauce mixture over. Sprinkle with mint if you have it.

Easy and delicious!

Maybe I’ll keep this up or create a new tradition of something new every Wednesday.

Do you change-up your recipes?

Hope for the best,


Happy St Nicholas Day: Are your Shoes Out?*


Neither are mine but when my husband was a child, his heroic mom of 9 children managed to fill each one’s shoes with a special treat the morning of Dec 6 so St Nick could make his first run-through.

Did you know Nick was a real-life bishop who had a reputation for secret gift-giving?  He liked to put coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him, especially the poor.

Some Christmas customs, like celebrating St Nick’s Day survive for generations, others drop off or transform into new traditions.  As a self-proclaimed traditionalist, I think we need both!

This year I am trying three new things:

1)     Small poinsettias in each room.  They are cheap and colorful and don’t need unpacking and are easily tossed after the holiday or when you get tired of them in February.



2)     Attaching a photo of the recipient instead of a gift tag. I have a huge supply of never used photos and it’s easy to cut out just one person to use as a tag.  Older photos are even more fun!

2012 Christmas Tags

3)     Do you send out holiday newsletters?  I stashed a copy of each of our past letters into a file and decided to put them into a red binder for display.  Office supply stores sell packages of letter size sheet protectors already punched with three holes.  Fun to look back over our highlights each year.

How about you?  Trying anything new?

Hope for the best,


*adapted from 12/6/12


Mimi Musings

The Oldest

I’m thinking about my grandmas a lot these days. Grandma Schwartz and Grandma Wiewel. No cutesy names for these women, I don’t think the thought ever crossed their minds to be called anything else. ..not like me and most of my girlfriends.

Their birthdays are both this month, one today in fact, but I know it’s more than that.

Mostly I’m very aware that my beloved Grandma Wiewel died the December I was eleven. My oldest grandchild is now eleven. I’m suddenly seeing me from her eyes and wonder how deep the imprint is going. More than wonder, I pray all the time for wisdom to impart what has been sewn in me to pass on to them.

The Youngest

All of us have/had a grandmother, two of them in fact, even if we never knew them. Most of us will be one as well. Unlike motherhood which often takes us by surprise, lots of time is provided to prepare a nest in our hearts for the new generation of little ones to land. Make it soft, cozy and very secure.

The seven year old

More than the snippets of conversation or the fun outings, I remember how these strong women made me feel. Welcome, wanted, loved, safe. Many things I often didn’t feel on the playground. They never raised their voice at me or made me feel less than anything.

Painting at my kitchen table.

So today I’ve painted and baked with one and will pick up another one from school for tea soon. With seven in town and two a train ride away, it does take some juggling of the calendar to make it happen and still get a work week in.

I go on a train to see this one.

What drives me is the thought that someday, not too far away, their array of options of whom to spend time with will be very vast. I hope to stay on the list!

Sometimes Papa comes along.

So I’m in it to win it, this role I will own the rest of my life. Can you help me out? If you are a grandmother, tell me your best tip. If you remember your grandmother, tell me what you loved the most.

Hope for the best,

Tish (or as I am known to nine, Mimi)

PS More Mimi musings:Grandma You Left me Too Soon, Pray it Again: My Grammas’s Rosary, Freeze These Moments!,Dates on Our Hearts

Friday Night Lights: Back on the Field

Tom and I and our star.

Friday Night Lights – Evanston Township High School football, filled our calendar, our basement, and swept us away 20 years ago. Our son, Gabriel, #70, was the Center, that’s a position, not a mom’s bragging. I can’t really define that exact role but I always liked the sound of it.

After four years on the field, this 1997 season looked like the big one. Victory after victory, the wins kept coming. Each week the ranking got higher and soon they were ranked #4 in the nation by USA TODAY. Winning the state title felt like it was in the bag, but it didn’t happen.

USA TODAY 11/11/97

The sensational run ended abruptly during a snowfall at the last game of the season when no more victories came through and we all mournfully filed out of the stadium for the last time.

Tom and I stayed in touch with some of the players, they still came in and out of our home occasionally when passing through town. Most conversations still included at least some snippets about THAT fall when hope flooded the field and all dreams seemed possible.

Every autumn we said to each other, “let’s go back to a game” but we never did.

Until a few weeks ago.

The boys came back.  Twenty years had passed and it was time to gather again.

Our grandson looking out on the field where his dad played.

Like stepping into a time machine, we headed back to the field. Tents were set up and a long table of barbecue lined the perimeter. Player’s parents like us showed up but now also wives, girlfriends, and kids. A whole new crowd that wasn’t around back then but had heard all the stories of the season that blew everyone away.

We swelled with pride once again when the announcer proclaimed that this team’s record was still standing and invited them all out on the field for half time. Tears wet my face as my son picked up his son and strode out there with his teammates to thunderous applause.

I know football is under closer scrutiny now, for good reason. I also know the camaraderie, community, and common vision that fall impacted us all in ways we’ll never forget.

Thanks, ETHS Wildkits, for the chance to cheer again, one more time.

Hope for the best,


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