Nanny’s Knick Knack Shelf

September 3, 2009 at 08:12 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, Treasure Chest Thursday | 4 Comments
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I can remember visiting Nanny’s house. It was painted gray and it had a huge front porch – or at least it always seemed huge to me then. I can still remember the dining room, probably because of so many photos taken at that table of family gatherings. I can also remember the old kitchen with its big stove and double sinks. Most of the memories of the old house are fuzzy because I was so young then. Later Nanny would move to “The Apartments” where my parents lived as a young married couple. Later still she would move for a while to our home in Easton and then with a daughter in Florida until she remarried. Then she moved to a beautiful old brick townhome back in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Through all her moves, I can remember three things as constants in her life. The first was the can of evaporated milk with its metal lid that punched a hole for pouring in the top of the can. It always sat on her kitchen table with the jar of instant coffee ready for everyone to use. Then there was her blue willow teapot. So old its glazed was crackled and much too fragile to use but it was her mothers. It sat on the shelf, a reminder to her of her childhood. Now it sits on my shelf, a link to generations gone.

And then there was the little knick knack shelf, a corner stand made of mahogany. Standing about 5 foot tall, it fit snugly in a corner with its tri-corner design, narrowing as it went from the floor to the top. The sides and top were ornate scrolls. When Nanny didn’t know how to keep me busy, she would give me a cloth with old fashioned paste wax. I would set about dusting and polishing all the intricate scrolls. I never saw this as a punishment or chore but rather I loved to trace the edges with my fingers over and over. It was pure pleasure to go up and down each side. I could spend hours lovingly polishing and dusting for her. And foolish little child, I would always say to her, “Nanny, someday will this be mine? Promise?” I have no idea if she liked that little curiosity but it made all the moves with her from house to house to apartment. It was always in the corner of her living room and always used in spite of other furniture that came and went.


Nanny's Knick Knack Shelf

Nanny's Knick Knack Shelf

Then came the morning that Valentino and I along with my parents were making the big move from Connecticut to Florida. That last morning Nanny came with her husband, Grandpa Bob, to say goodbye. I suspect she worried if we would see one another again – although we did the following year after our second son, another great grandson for her, was born. We were struggling to fit everything into the moving vans. Even with the huge trucks, two households took plenty of room. Grandpa Bob opened the back door of his car and there was the little knick knack shelf laying across the back seat. Nanny insisted I had to take the shelf with me. She had saved it all those years for me. It was her reminder of our hours together and she wanted to know it was safely in my home and not get lost later in the confusion of breaking up her home when the time came.

I can’t imagine this old knick knack shelf having any great monetary value for anyone else. To me it is priceless. It sits proudly in the corner of our living room now. I still find immeasurable pleasure in tracing the scrolls as I dust and polish them. I smile and think back to those moments of quiet pleasure in my childhood. With my smiles are a few tears too as I think of Nanny, someone who I knew loved me unconditionally. She loved me enough to not let go of a little old knick knack shelf until it was time to pass on to me for my home. For all her faults, Nanny loved me and that shelf is my reminder each day that her love still encircles me just like the never ending circles of those scrolls.


The Policeman and the Case of the Silver Spoon

August 22, 2009 at 19:39 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy | 3 Comments
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One of those crazy earliest memories of my early childhood is my Uncle Clifford. It was always a toss-up in my mind as to who was more handsome, Uncle Cliff or Uncle Harvey. Even as a little one I knew they were both very handsome but Uncle Cliff in his wonderful police uniform usually won the toss-up! We always had wonderful family dinners together, everyone gathered for the Holidays. My dad was a big believer in family and loved entertaining everyone. My mother would make fantastic dinners with enough food for an army. Even her buffets were sumptuous meals. She used pure white damask linen tablecloths that I would watch her iron until no wrinkles were left. Then she would set out stacks of her beautiful china and her prized silverware. Plastic and paper plates were never used inside – only rarely and then only for picnics!


Uncle Clifford

Uncle Clifford

               I was about four years old the Christmas I tagged after my Uncle Cliff at one of these dinners. This was the era when women would dress in their best right down to their high heels and men wore suits and ties, even to family dinners. Uncle Cliff, where did you find the patience to tolerate a little one hanging on your every move? As we all progressed through the buffet line juggling plates over-laden with food, I was in awe as Uncle Cliff tucked his silverware in the suit coat breast pocket near his handkerchief. I was sure no one else in the entire world could possibly be that smart!

Soon enough the evening came to an end and family were leaving. One of my aunts was helping my mother clean up in the kitchen. This was before automatic dishwashers, mind you! My mother could not sleep if there was a dirty dish or glass in the sink. Every piece was washed, dried, and put away. Silverware was counted as it was slipped back into the silverware chest. She always worried a piece might get tossed accidently and this had been a special wedding gift! Sure enough – the count was wrong and a spoon had gone missing. They searched kitchen, dining room, and living room looking for it. And then began the messy task of looking in the garbage! I tried to explain that Uncle Cliff had the spoon in his pocket! The two women looked at me mortified! Uncle Cliff was no thief!? What was I talking about? I was in tears now. My Uncle Cliff WAS TOO SMART! He had the spoon in his pocket! My poor mother was so confused by my carrying on! A few minutes later Aunt Bev called. They had made it safely home and then Uncle Cliff realized he still had a spoon in his pocket. Aunt Bev knew Mom was probably searching everywhere right now and wanted to reassure her the spoon was safe! Mom told her I had insisted that Uncle Cliff had the spoon and everyone had a good laugh as Uncle Cliff explained. I was finally appeased as everyone agreed with me that my Uncle Cliff was indeed a clever fellow!

For years family would tease at every family gathering and tell Uncle Cliff to check his pockets. Uncle Cliff has been gone a few years but even now as I wash and dry my own silverware, I remember again my handsome uncle with a smile in my heart. Once again I am four years old tagging after Uncle Cliff, the policeman with a silver spoon!

Furry Friends Friday

August 21, 2009 at 15:37 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Furry Friends Friday | 4 Comments
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About the time I was 2 years or so, Smokey the Bear became a famous teddy bear. He was based on a cute little cub found by firemen during a forest fire. When the firemen found him, his paws were burned and his fur was singed. He smelled as if he was in a fire. Hence the name Smokey. He became a well known mascot with the slogan “Only you can prevent forest fires!” He was a jaunty teddy bear with yellow felt forest rangers hat and yellow plastic shovel. I’m not sure how I learned about Smokey but I really REALLY wanted one! Yet somehow I also understood this special bear was not a cheap toy at the time, something I was not expecting. It would have to something magical almost to get a Smokey the Bear for my own.

Dad was involved with the Naval Vets Club locally, was even Post Commander at one point. He helped to organize the family Christmas party about a week before. They had a Santa Claus there to talk to the children and hand out small gifts. I made sure to tell him all about Smokey the Bear. My parents had already done most shopping and hid the presents in the attic shelves of the garage. I have no idea if they were surprised by what I told Santa or if they were already prepared for it. I do know I had been pretty vocal about it so it probably was not too big a shock. But I was whiny that night and kept rubbing my eyes with my mittens and generally not happy. Soon enough I was a sick little kid with some cold virus and pink eye to go along with it. This was before there were many antibiotics, and penicillin was being touted as a miracle drug. My parents seemed to be pretty worried about how ill I was. Dad finally thought a surprise would help calm me and help speed recovery. He went to the garage and brought in an early gift telling me Santa was worried and wanted me well soon. Of course it was Smokey the Bear! All I kept saying was “Smokey! How did you know I wanted you so much?” I’m pretty sure my folks were thinking because I was generally obnoxious talking about nothing else that the whole world probably knew I wanted him! Ha!

Every now and then we get around to viewing grainy old 8mm films of that Christmas and there my sister and I sit under the tree surrounded by wonderful gifts. My parents must have sacrificed a great deal to show their love. After all they were not wealthy people and struggling like many young families after the end of the WWII and Korean War was under way. But there I am sitting with Smokey and he was all I had eyes for! I was oblivious to everything else!

Christmas now is still my favorite time of year. I go all out baking and decorating inside and out including every room of the house. My four sons are grown now with children of their own. But they still know Christmas is arriving when Smokey comes out to sit in a place of honor with a big bow under his chin! His hat and shovel are long gone and his fur is well worn from all the hugs and caresses he has had from me over the years. Yet it is Smokey who is one of those powerful reminders of family and the love my parents showed us!

Smokey the Bear

Smokey the Bear

Treasure Chest Thursday

August 21, 2009 at 01:07 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Carnival of Genealogy, Treasure Chest Thursday | 2 Comments
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When I was very young, I loved unusual boxes. my parents were avid ‘antiquers’, spending weekends taking long drives throughout New England in search of more great items. Then they would spend hours together over the snowy months lovingly restoring their finds to new glory. While they would be looking over interesting pieces of furniture, I would be scouting out the dusty corners of the shops looking for treasures too. Always it would be an interesting box that would catch my attention. I’m not really certain why I was fascinated with boxes. I used shoeboxes to hold my homemade Sears Catalogue paper dolls and I loved the smell of the old cigar boxes my dad used to hold his photographic negatives. But it was especially the old wooden boxes that captured my imagination. Trunks were fun and later I would love jewelry boxes too. And metal trinket or dresser boxes. But wooden boxes were my favorites! Finally came the evening we were at a local auction. I spied a great wooden box slightly larger than shoebox size. My mother laughed and told me if I wanted it, I had to bid and to watch how high I bid considering my meager money! A few dollars later and I was contentedly holding my first auction win, a great wooden box all my own! Oh, I would go on to become an auction fiend and a collector of many things including all sorts of trunks and boxes and trinket cases. Yet, I still own that very first wooden box. Nothing special about it – just a plain box that has had many uses over the last forty years or so of my life. But it was my first treasure box and one I still treasure today!

West Melbourne, FL Home Saga Ongoing

August 14, 2009 at 17:13 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, citizens fighting city or towns, property values, taxpayers can you fight city hall, West Melbourne, FL | Leave a comment
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There is some hope for life returning to a degree of normalcy at our home. I had written a letter to a local TV station (I will not name until they make a decision) and posted several posts here on the conditions as a result of the sewer lift station construction. The amount of hits I have received is encouraging that word is out. I hope it helps anyone else facing such a mess and disruption to their lives in addition to the financial pain. I am also perfectly aware that much of the tracking is by the folks at City Hall wanting to see what exactly I am posting and therefore forcing them to prepare for the inevitable. I am not someone who wanted to be a political activist. I never was such a person but obviously I have been forced to become one. The photos show the landscaping and clean up of our yard. I have to state here that the gentlemen assigned to us to be responsible for getting the project done have gone out of their way to get it done. I realize that much of this big push is due to my speaking at the City Council meetings, posting here and on Twitter, as well as a letter of inquiry from the TV station to City Hall. The cypress trees were a more expensive alternative to what they intended to put there but it was acknowledged that maintaining hedges would be expensive over the long run – something I brought up. I suggested the trees would be less likely to have branches that might damage the antenna system also. I also admit that when the bulldozer broke a large section of our driveway, they poured a new one the same day without us having to mention or discuss it even with anyone. Again I attribute this to the new attitude of actually supervising the job — and again the two men assigned to do this have done their jobs well. For all of the folks who hate to see certain ethnic workers on a job site, I want to refute some of those issues here. These fellows were all legal and they were gentlemen. They were also very hard workers with no swearing, no raudy behavior, and they cleaned up after themselves daily! I believe in giving credit and Kudos where owed.

All of that said, the bottom line is a financial one to us. How the project was handled originally was a publicity nightmare, a lesson in rude, obnoxious city employee attitudes, and an elitist attitude also by a city mangement. None of that can be changed. What was done was done. And unfortunately no amount of landscaping will change that we now have the view from our front windows of a sewer lift station. Stand in the street and look at our house and you see a sewer lift station. Trees and hedges only go so far, curb appeal is now destroyed. Given a choice of the same house with a sewer station or without, obviously buyers will not choose the sewer lift station. The reality is that our finances are therefore impacted by the City’s decisions. We had no voice in the decision and now we are the ones whose future is impacted. Our home was like most Americans a big portion of our lives. After all, our governments claim home ownership is a major part of the American Dream. This is now our nightmare we get to live and relive every day.

Finished Landscaping of the Front Yard and Sewer Lift Station

Finished Landscaping of the Front Yard and Sewer Lift Station

VAngled iew of House

Angled View of House

Tombstone Tuesday

August 11, 2009 at 01:40 | Posted in Carnival of Genealogy, Tombstone Tuesday | Leave a comment
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Cicero's Tomb

Cicero's Tomb

Tomba di Cicero, Itri, Italy
Legend claims this as the tomb of Ciero but although he was there, it is not generally believed he is actually buried there! However it is a fascinating place!

Black Sheep Sunday

August 9, 2009 at 03:36 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, Black Sheep Sunday, Carnival of Genealogy, family history, genealogy | 3 Comments
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I have had a difficult time trying to decide who fits the bill for this post this week. I finally settled on: MYSELF!

I’m the one in our family who has always been “out there in front” getting myself into hot water or being noticed or just having fun. Fortunately I never got into real trouble as in breaking the law or being arrested or kicked out of school – too much of a people pleaser for that! When I was younger I was the baby sister to the older quieter smarter and even prettier sister. I was always hearing the admonition to “please try to be more like your sister!” My parents loved me – I never doubted that. My sister and I are friends. But I do believe I aged my parents in comparison to my sister!

I was always looking for fun and more friends. I would rather smile than cry and always had another story to tell. Along the way I remember my grandmother always having her Brownie camera handy. She would line everyone up here or there for one more photo. She drove most of the family crazy then but we love those old photos now. Advance it a bit forward and my father was the one with the camera. Around the war years he took great sepia toned portraits that my mother lovingly hand tinted. They then sold them for extra money. Later he invested in a Kodak Retina Reflex 35mm camera. He took incredible floral and landscape photography and made a slide presentation that my mother gave professionally for years. By the time I was ready for college I owned the same 35mm camera and took studies in black and white everywhere I went.

Soon I was busy raising children and being a wife. I was engaged in all the usual activities with the boys as they grew. Our lives were a series of tall mountain peaks and lowly dark caverns too low to be called valleys. We marked those early years by one family crisis (mostly medical) after another. I was usually embroiled in being the medical advocate for one family member or another, always the vocal out in front one.

Fast forward to the camcorder era. Suddenly there I was again with a camera in hand taking the videos this time. We would travel overseas and strangers would gather to watch me film, marveling in the LCD on the back of the camcorder. Finally one of my sons took the camcorder from me in self defense. He became the videographer – and a very good one at that! Then came those interesting APS cameras. That was too short an era for me! I loved those long long photos great for landscapes and for family shots. They reminded me of those old fashioned photos years ago that rolled out 2 or 3 foot long in the dark sepia tones of my great grandparents’ era. Soon they were gone along with the special frames and photos albums they used to sell for the photos.

Then life changed again for us. My oldest son became a martial arts pro. He has the keen ability to make incredibly high jumps up into midair. And every one (or 90% anyway) of my photos blurred. This son began doing photo shoots professionally and introduced me to the world of Nikon SLR. He’s a little sorry about that now as he feels he’s created a monster of sorts. Once more I am out in the thick of things with a camera in hand. Our last trip to Italy resulted in over 1500 raw photos. And of course there’s this blog and my family history books and other books I write. There’s always one more story to tell or one more experience to share. Our life is probably crazier than most reality TV shows. I used to say I was practicing a script for a soap opera because no one believed half of our trials and travails! I always figured I would share it because to laugh is more fun than to cry.

So I attend City Council meetings where I have become politically but politely vocal. I write books and detail our family history on various websites. And finally I have taken to writing blogs. Am I officially the black sheep of the family? I am certainly the noisiest one. My in-laws laugh and encourage me although I am not sure they always understand me. My sons do not embarrass easily so they too usually encourage or even come up with one more idea. (I have a son helping me to grow my online presence.) And my husband? He winks and says he ‘knew’ I was crazy enough the night he met me. He smiles and tells me thanks for not changing ever. SO I may not be the totally black sheep of the family but I am one of the messier ones!

Treasure Chest Thursday

August 6, 2009 at 00:02 | Posted in ancestry, Bits and Pieces, family history, Fun Reminders of Italy, genealogy, Italy, Treasure Chest Thursday | 5 Comments
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Don Camillo Series by Giovanni Guareschi 

Original by Giovanni Guareschi for Don Camillo
Original by Giovanni Guareschi for Don Camillo

(copyrighted to Giovanni Guareschi)

I grew up in the small village of Easton, Connecticut.  Once a week, Samuel Staples Elementary School would walk a class over to the Town Hall basement to the town library. I would check out the maximum number of books allowed because I so loved to read. Soon I was through all of the books in my own division and the librarian made the decision to permit me more mature books. I discovered Don Camillo! Written by the Italian author Giovanni Guareschi, they were wonderfully written simple vignettes of Italian life in a Po River Valley town. The communist mayor was constantly battling the local parish priest. Aside from the flavorful way Guareschi presented an ageless moral and political struggle, this series seeped deep into my soul. I so loved these books, I hated to return them and would renew them over and over. Recently I was able to purchase old fragile copies of a few of them online and fell in love all over again. As a child they burned a dream into my heart of living in Italy but in time I got caught up in life and the dream was buried until I met Valentino. The visits to Itri awakened those dreams again. It was as if I had always known these familiar little villages and towns.

So this series of wonderful books is my offering to this week’s Treasure Chest Thursday. Make an effort to read these books and discover as I did the lure they have. They’re my treasure because they led me to a desire to know Italy. When I met and fell in love with my husband, it was the icing on my cake to fall in love with a native Italian! He is my real tresure and the reason my heart bursts and sings!

Addition to Wordless Wednesday

August 5, 2009 at 10:54 | Posted in Amore di Italia, Bits and Pieces, DiCrocco, family history, genealogy | Leave a comment
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Favorite Photo Ever - 1977 Italy

Favorite Photo Ever - 1977 Italy

I am blessed! It’s still the same!

West Melbourne, FL City Council August 4, 2009 Ongoing Saga of Our Home

August 4, 2009 at 22:51 | Posted in Bits and Pieces, citizens fighting city or towns, property values, taxpayers can you fight city hall, West Melbourne, FL | Leave a comment
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We again attended a City Council Meeting for the West Melbourne, Florida City Council. I was asked by one of the City Council members to keep them apprised of the situation at our home. At the last meeting, some photographs of our home were shown that did not clarify our position fairly or properly along with incorrect statements being put out there that we were inconveniencing others and costing delays with our complaints. So I felt it imperative to set the record straight on several issues and felt a few photographs of what transpired would say more than mere words. With that in mind I showed proof that equipment needed could not fit in between the two houses and that the tanks themselves would also not fit. More importantly I showed our house before and now. Remember this was a 2600+ square foot home that is now a mess no matter how many shrubs they try to plant. I don’t think a 20+ foot antenna on tripod stand will be covered by some flowers or hedges. And none of it helps the value of our home now. Watch the presentation for yourself – it was well received and most of the citizens came up to us after the meeting to agree with us.


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