October 28, 2010

Girlfriends at the Lake

Posted in Food, Friendships, Knitting, Women tagged , , , , , , , , , at 6:56 am by Liliana

Walking Barefoot

Walking Barefoot

I spent last weekend with my sister Branka and four friends at our cottage near Lake Michigan.

If you are wondering what women of our age like to do on these kinds of getaways, I will tell you.

We slept late in the morning, and then sat around in our pajamas, drinking coffee and talking.

Some of us cooked and made wonderful meals: scrambled eggs, toast, cheese and fresh fruit for breakfast; roasted stuffed chicken with roasted potatoes and salad for lunch; leak and potato soup, chili, and salad for dinner.

Some of us baked: Branka made walnut strudel (ahead of time) that lasted throughout the weekend, even though we had some at every meal; Margaret made delicious brownies and brought candles so we could celebrate Ann’s birthday; Ann made an amazingly rich chocolate cake for her own birthday.

We sang “Happy Birthday” to Ann.

We explored an antique store and each found treasures. Branka and Jelena bought earrings; Ann noticed delicate china perfect for her daughter Erin; Martha bough a little porcelain cow creamer for my daughter Nena; Margaret discovered an elegant silk scarf; I came across a milky white pitcher for my dried flower bouquets.

We stopped at the knitting store and I bought some soft orange wool to make a scarf for Branka. Ann started teaching me a new (complicated!) pattern.

In the evening, we went to see “The Social Network” at the old movie theater. After the movie we stayed up late (well past our bedtimes) talking about it, researching the facts, pointing to each other articles on the topic that we liked or disliked.

The next morning, we walked on the beach. The air was hazy, soft and mild, so we took our shoes and socks off and walked barefoot on the sand. For late October, the lake water was remarkably warm. We walked in the sunshine, Ann took photographs, and we talked and laughed. We sat on an old bench to rest. We saw a rainbow.

We had coffee and chocolate cake before getting ready to go home.

On our drive back, we stopped at the roadside market and bought pumpkins and fresh, crispy apples. Jelena bought chestnuts to roast.

Like a squirrel storing nuts, I stockpiled memories of our weekend. When the days get shorter, darker and colder, I will dig them up again.


October 25, 2010

The High Line

Posted in Travel tagged , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana

The High Line

The High Line

Have you heard of the High Line?

Last week I attended the AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts) business design conference in New York City. There, I heard the story of the High Line’s transformation from one of the central characters involved in this inspiring tale.

The story is so affirmative, hopeful and uplifting that I absolutely had to see the place.

I convinced my son Mike to go with me to the Meatpacking District of Manhattan late on a golden Saturday afternoon. It was a cold fall day, Mike was tired, and walking along some windy rail line didn’t seem like the best option in this city of options. He was skeptical about this adventure. I persisted.

Originally constructed in the 1930s to lift dangerous freight trains off Manhattan’s streets, the High Line decayed for years as an abandoned elevated rail line running through the West Side neighborhoods of Manhattan.  It was a nasty eyesore in a rough, dangerous neighborhood.

Then two young men read an article in the NY Times stating that the High Line was about to be demolished. They got together and formed a group – Friends of the High Line. They raised money. They changed public attitude and perceptions. They got together a team of talented and creative people

It took five years, but eventually they created something beautiful. And something practical.

Mike and I climbed the metal stairs leading up to the elevation, and this is what we saw: trees, colorful wild grasses, wild flowers in purple, pink and burgundy blooms, green bamboo shoots, and people. Young couples pushing babies in strollers down the paved promenade, older couples sitting on benches in the setting sun, children playing with ornamental stones, tourists gazing at the Hudson River and the New York skyline. Through the grasses and the flowers, one detected traces of the old rails. The High Line didn’t try to forget its humble origins.

It reminded me of korzo walkways in old Italian towns.

Mike forgot that it was windy and cold. He was delighted. We went from one end of this promenade to another, read all the signs and lingered until we were hungry. It seemed a shame to leave such a pleasant oasis.

But we had plenty of options once we descended the stairs. Along with the elevated rail line, the neighborhood has metamorphosed as well. Restaurants, cafes, boutiques, art galleries, even a museum is about to be built.

And all of this started with only two people.

Email Subscriptions

Posted in News tagged , , , , , at 6:58 am by Liliana

How to subscribe to my blog postings?

How to subscribe?

I have received a number of emails from my readers asking how they can subscribe to my blog postings.

This means that every time I write a new post, you automatically receive it in your email.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. There is an Email Subscription box in the right column of my blog.
  2. Enter your email address there.
  3. You will then receive an email asking you if you agree to receive my blog postings.
  4. You must click on the link indicated, to confirm that you agree. Unless you click on the link, you will not receive the postings.

Your email will not be used for any purpose and is completely confidential.

I hope this helps. Best to you all.


October 21, 2010

Old Friends

Posted in Children, Friendships tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , at 7:02 am by Liliana

Old Friends

Old Friends

I had dinner with an old friend while visiting New York last week. We hadn’t seen each other in over twenty years.

Donna and I met as high school students in 1973. Our families had just immigrated to New York, hers from Poland, mine from Yugoslavia. Neither of us spoke English.

Together with my sister Branka, we became fast friends.

Our American experiences and identities unfolded in similar ways.

We took ESL classes together, and learned to love and appreciate the English language. As our communication skills improved, our confidence grew. We started venturing outside Queens and expanded our explorations to Manhattan – the three of us on our own!

We roamed the streets, walked around Central Park, visited every famous place we had heard of.

By the time we were juniors, we bought our first tickets to a Broadway show. We almost fainted from excitement as we sat in the very first row, watching Yul Brynner in “The King and I.” Branka and Donna threatened to stand up in the middle of a song and shout to Yul Brynner how much they loved him. I was relieved when they didn’t have the courage to actually do it.

We walked all around the Museum of Modern Art for an amazing Picasso exhibit. I had bought brand new, high healed red sandals, and they started hurting my feet. I complained but the girls had no patience or sympathy. They were transfixed by the wonders in front of them. I took the sandals off, and barefoot but comfortable, delighted in the beauty of the art before me. New Yorkers didn’t even notice.

When John Lennon was shot, we went to his Central Park memorial service. It was an overcast, freezing winter day, and the crowds so overwhelming, the police feared that someone would be trampled to death. We were told to all sit on the ground. So, we sat on the frozen snow for hours, listening to speeches, to music, to remembrances. Afterward, the three of us were sick for weeks.

One winter, for New Year’s Eve, the tree of us decided to welcome the new year at the Times Square celebration. Again, we froze. Again, the crowds were so great, they were not for people who were claustrophobic or faint of heart.

But the tree of us, best friends, intertwined our hands and held on tightly to each other.

And here we are, still reaching out.

October 19, 2010

Streets of New York

Posted in Travel tagged , , , , , , , at 6:55 am by Liliana

Crowded Street in New York

Crowded Street in New York City

I spent four days in New York City last week.

One minute I was in Michigan, and then, a few hours later, I walked out onto the streets of Manhattan.

It is not easy to describe the living and breathing monster that is the energy of this city. One feels its pulse and hears its labored breathing with every step one takes.

On this overcast, steamy Thursday the animal opens the wide sphere of its bottomless jaw and swallows one more pedestrian as she joins the mass of humanity walking down Lexington Avenue.

Everyone and everything seems to be in motion. People and things are: walking, honking, talking, running, sliding, driving, bicycling, arguing, directing, begging, drinking, twirling, dancing, swinging, stirring, swaying, crawling, flowing, hovering, dodging, eating, bustling, signaling, shifting, rolling, fluctuating, buzzing.

The bubble of deafening noise envelops the city like a cacophonous cloud. Traces of exhaust, food, smoke, steam and who knows what else, cling to one’s hair and clothes like barnacles.

There is no sky, no air.

There is no sweet smelling, expanding, green and silent earth.

There is no outside world.

One has been swallowed into the stomach of this leviathan called New York City. But as this willing captive glides with the crowd, she wishes to be nowhere else.

At least for a few days.

October 13, 2010

Rescuing Chilean Miners

Posted in Good people, Work tagged , , , , , at 2:17 pm by Liliana

Rescuing Chilean Miners - October 2010

Rescuing Chilean Miners - October 2010

Sometimes, the whole world stops, comes together and agrees.

Life is precious.

October 12, 2010

Endless Prairie

Posted in Children, Travel tagged , , , , , at 7:01 am by Liliana


Endless Prairie

Endless Prairie


Now that my children, nieces and nephew are growing up and moving to interesting places, I travel to parts of the country I might not naturally venture to on my own.

My world is expanding.

Last Thursday, my sister Branka and I visited my niece Nicole for the parent weekend at her school. Her small, liberal arts college is located in the middle of the Illinois prairie, on the very edge of the Great Plains. This is Abraham Lincoln country.

On a sunny, Indian summer day Branka and I drove more than seven hours to our destination. As we hastened past Chicago, trying to avoid the rush hour traffic, we talked and laughed.  The colors of the leaves were vivid and intense but the landscape so familiar we hardly paid attention to the scenery.

We quieted down and looked in wonder the further west we drove.

All around us, as far as the eye could see, stretched acres and acres of shimmering wheat, dried corn husks, green grasses. The land stretched out flat, treeless; a rare farmhouse or barn roof became visible now and then. The sky – domineering, colossal, limitless, was the main character in this terrain. The eye constantly wondered up, to the intense blueness, to the gauzy whiteness of the clouds.

I didn’t want to drive. I wanted to look without thinking, to soak it all in without distraction.

We delighted in wordlessly pointing to each other points of interest.

An ancient, abandoned barn with bushes and trees growing from the inside out. Clouds. Rows of wheat frozen in windless atmosphere. A minuscule elevation with a compound of farm buildings and a silo. A white farmhouse on the side. Islands of green wild grasses on idling farmland. A stretch of rotting wooden fence. Horses grazing. Cows grazing. Clouds.

We floated in our car for hours, and saw no people.

We had seen this world before – in cowboy moves, in American landscape paintings, watching “Little House on the Prairie” on TV. But those visions were experienced on a small screen. To our European eyes, tamed by old cities and narrow cobblestone streets, it seemed impossible that this vastness exited in a landlocked domain.

This coming Thursday I am traveling to New York City. Can that urban, crowded realm really exist in the same universe as this vast, quiet, golden sea?

I will let you know.

October 5, 2010

In Enemy Territory

Posted in Children, Family, Food, Knitting, Traditions, Travel tagged , , , , , , , , , , at 6:49 am by Liliana

Ohio Michigan Rivalry

Ohio-Michigan Rivalry

My nephew Sasha works as a community organizer in Columbus, Ohio.

He graduated from college last summer and this is his first serious, full-time job. He knows few people in this city, so my sister, brother-in-law and I decided to visit last weekend. We planned to feed him some good food, catch up on news and cheer him up.

We also wanted to keep him company during a college football game between Michigan and Indiana. It is not easy cheering for your team in a sports bar all alone. Especially not when you are in Ohio State country and everyone is cheering against you.

Early Saturday morning, we had a huge breakfast at an old diner on Main Street. We shared an omelet, biscuits, blueberry pancakes, bacon and hash browns. We sipped coffee without hurry, laughed and talked. It was a warm, golden morning.

After breakfast, Sasha drove us around the city. I had never been to Columbus before and I expected a quietly dying urban landscape with monotonously endless strip malls. It was anything but. The downtown has a beautiful, modern, innovative skyline. The ethnic neighborhoods like German Village, Italian Village and the market area have a distinctive charm all their own. The city feels vital, young and stylish.

I wanted to walk through the Ohio State University campus. But when we drove up, we realized that Sasha was wearing a University of Michigan t-shirt. Everyone else, as far as the eye could see, was wearing red buckeye shirts. We decided to stay in the car.

We had lunch at the market area. The market is a renovated old warehouse that now houses fine artisan and ethnic food stores. Sasha and Joe had sushi, Branka had tender barbecued ribs and I decided to try a sampling of Indian vegetarian dishes. We took our food upstairs, made a colorful spread on a table, and shared.

By this time, the sky was getting cloudy and it was threatening rain so we walked to Sasha’s favorite sports bar. The music was deafening and a million TV’s were blaring different football games at the same time. Not one was of the Michigan/Indiana game. Sasha found a waitress willing to turn one of the TV’s to the right channel and we huddled around a cozy table to watch.

I am not much of a football fan, in fact, I hardly understand the game. So I got my knitting out, and worked on a delicately gauzy scarf for my niece. On occasion I glanced at the TV to see what Sasha and Joe were getting excited about. Most of the other patrons ignored us, although a couple of people noticed Sasha’s Michigan t-shirt and stopped to say hello. Fellow Michiganders.

The expectations were that Michigan would easily beat Indiana, but the game was not as close as expected. It was getting tense. Branka, Joe and I had to leave at halftime, but Sasha promised to keep us posted. It was really hard to leave him there to watch the rest of the game by himself, but we had to go.

While the three of us drove home in the gathering darkness and pouring rain, Sasha kept texting Joe reports on how the game was progressing. It was tied. Then Michigan pulled ahead. Michigan won. Go Blue!

We might have ventured into enemy territory, but the natives were friendly. It was a perfect trip.