They are talking about advent calendars

Because I am generally one of the first they meet in the main hallway by the front door at school, the kindergarten through second grade share it all with me. We talk of movies, weekend sleepovers, weather, new hats, backpacks, who is sick, who they miss, who was not nice on the bus or who they helped. Even are favorite food especially candy is up for debate.

And two have shared the excitement of Mom purchasing an advent calendar that talks about following the nativity story. Though I can’t share everything with them especially about God and religion, I do acknowledge that I believe. One calendar actually produced a gift of Lindt chocolate every day and another a tree of magnetic ornaments.

Today, a huge variety of advent calendars can be found with different themes; some in the form of sports, technology and I found one with elves. Some are extremely large and three-dimensional like dollhouses. Some use Lego and star wars pieces for children.

During the 1960’s, I would receive one in a large brown envelope from family that was an artists masterpiece celebrating the birth of Jesus. Little cardboard or even paper windows opened each day with a prayer or bible verse from the first day in December. There was a double window to be opened on Christmas Eve. We never sneaked a look ahead at the surprise picture or message, neither did my own children when they received their advent calendar gifts in the 1990’s. I remember one that looked like a giant Christmas tree with angels on the outside pointing to the windows located on the tree that looked like different ornaments.

Vermont Christmas Company offers a wonderful selection of advent calendars. One of the worlds largest collection of calendars with over 300 designs. You can also save 30% off even if you are starting a little late into the month.

For adults, there is are daily wine or whiskey calendars with windows or cardboard openings stuffed with cheese for snacking as well.

Last year, only a couple days before Christmas Eve, I received a gift from a student which was an advent calendar. A little late to celebrate the early days of the month so it took me forever to figure out what is was…even my daughter who is 29 asked why certain areas were numbered. Shaped like a dollhouse, it was a bath and body calendar. One day there was a small container of body lotion, body sponge, scented oils, and even chap stick.

 

Zoo lights in Chicago

Traveling to the Zoos in and around Chicago was not something I could do as a child during the holidays. My early experiences of zoo trips were feeding the polar bears at Brookfield during the summer and attending the Children’s/Farm Zoo at Lincoln Park. My Aunt lived in the Old Town area so she would spend time with me at Lincoln Park and then we would have dinner at the Pickel Barrel restaurant.  Every table had pickles and popcorn; sometimes a clown would be there blowing up free balloons.

Lincoln Park Zoo is a 35-acre zoo located in Lincoln Park in Chicago, Illinois. The zoo was founded in 1868, making it among the oldest zoos in North America. It is also one of a few free admission zoos in the United States. What I remember most is that Bushman the Gorilla died there and was transferred to the Field Museum; always a scare for me stuffed in a case. I loved the Farm Zoo at Lincoln Park which was filled with play stations of animals. The main barn featured a steer and pigs. It was so popular that horse and beef cattle barns were added. Now The Dairy Barn houses goats and cows, where visitors can learn about the milking process. There was also a Childrens zoo now owned by the Pritzger family. This is a home for North American animals that can let young people get nose to nose with red wolves, black bears, North American river otters and American beavers.

ZooLights, presented by ComEd and Invesco QQQ at Lincoln Park Zoo has been Chicago’s holiday tradition for 24 years. The one-of-a-kind experience offers fun, free, family-oriented holiday celebrations that feature luminous displays and incredible seasonal activities…all under the glow of 2.5 million lights!   4:30-9 p.m.
December 2018: 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31*
*(early closure of 8 PM on the 31st)
January 2019: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6

Brookfield Zoo,also known as the Chicago Zoological Park,[2][3] is a zoo located in the Chicagosuburb of Brookfield, Illinois. It houses around 450 species of animals in an area of 216 acres (87 ha). It opened on July 1, 1934,[4] and quickly gained international recognition for using moats and ditches instead of cages to separate animals from visitors and from other animals. Yes, you could feed the Polar bears which is no longer an option but you can feed the giraffes and you can actually mingle with penguins.  Another strong memory of Brookfield through the decades, was the fountain named after the 26th president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt. The fountain’s spouting water can reach up to 60 feet high. Another favorite was Ibex mountain where the goats appeared behind the rock but was raised in 2008.

Holiday Lights is presented by ComEd and Meijer currently in their37th year and my children were able to attend some of the first shows. They still go to Brookfield.Actually this is considered the  longest running Lights Festival with over One-Million Twinkling LED Lights. You can see a 41-Foot Talking Tree, a Skating Rink, Carolers, Ice Carvers, and more. The skating rink is new this year.

Location: Zoowide

Date: Saturdays and Sundays, December 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23,

Ballerina jewelry boxes: Top of the list in gifts this year

Every girl had one. I wanted one too but slightly different from all my friends. I searched from house to house, asking to see their jewelry boxes, never quite seeing the one. The ballerina had to be just the right size, spin at just the right pace with the perfect music to set off her magic twirl. Inside some jewelry boxes, the fabric was cheap.  I wanted either pink satin or velvet. I had taken ballerina lessons in South Shore throughout kindergarten until third grade. I knew what I wanted. I knew what I was talking about when it came to ballerina jewelry boxes. The hardware had to be gold brass and the paint an off white on the outside; a small lock and key would be preferable. That French provincial look that matched. Most were not personalized as they are today. In the 1960’s, Karla with a K, of all things, wasn’t a popular name.

Many, then, were also made with lead paint. Still, a massive collection of vintage ballerina jewelry boxes are available on Etsy. Some have been refinished and labeled… no lead free oil based paint!

Did you know that today in 2018, after reading an article on the most popular gift for seven year old girls, the ballerina jewelry box was in the top five? Children are still inspired by the ballet, taking early lessons to learn elegance and decorum. And dressing in the elaborate ballerina tutu which makes them a graceful star.

In the 1990’s, I don’t recall my daughter ever wanting one. Instead, she had a beautiful water globe with a ballerina in the center. You could turn a small key on the bottom and the ballerina would gracefully spin to music while shaking the dancing glitter.Her Godmother had given her the gift. She still has the globe that mesmerizes her every time she admires it at 29 years of age. And she shared this with her Godmother on a surprise visit that it was still one of her favorites gifts. They had not seen each other in several years. Unexpectedly, my daughter had shared this not knowing that in only a few months after,her godmother would pass away.

Today, to purchase some of the best in new ballerina jewelry boxes,  the Pottery barn kids offer some unique items. Sears online has several choices in musical jewelry boxes and many are currently marked down. They offer safe places to store your sparkling treasures.

After searching online to research the different types of ballerina jewelry boxes, I found one from the 1980s at Etsy. There are three divided areas on top and one full drawer on the bottom. It is pink satin inside with velvet trim and it plays one of my favorite songs, You light up my life.

Oh boy…guess what is going on my Christmas list. Maybe I will just break down and buy for myself. It’s already favored by five people! Yes, these musical boxes must be popular after all.

Chicago’s Navy Pier

My childhood memories of Navy Pier were just that, a pier that was cold, dark and gloomy. A pier that was falling apart, in transition, and far from the dazzle we have today. In fact, the last of the World War II generation remembers it as a training ground to fight. Over the decades, Navy Pier has demonstrated a variety of purpose.

Navy Pier was designed as a municipal pier in 1916 and host to a prison for draft dodgers during World War I. It was named Navy Pier in 1927 as a tribute to navy veterans who served in the first World War. In World War II, the pier was used a center to train pilots and according to Navy Pier’s current website, over 200 planes can still be found at the bottom of Lake Michigan. During these training years, tens of thousands of boys that were drafted used the facility and could also exercise in a huge gym, cafeteria and theater for entertainment.

After the war in 1946, Navy Pier hosted students from the University of Illinois for a two year program though they did have to finish their four year degree at the home campus in Champaign/Urbana. Finally to complete a degree at one campus, Chicago’s Circle Campus ( an new annex of the University of Illinois) was born in 1965. At that time, Navy Pier needed a new face lift.

Since the 20th Century, Navy Pier has been transformed into acres of parks, fine dining, fabulous cruises, a ferris wheel that holds 300 people, and much more. As a result of much to do at the Pier and year round events, Navy Pier proudly holds the number one tourist attraction position in the Midwest. Cruises on the Odyssey, Spirit of Chicago and Mystic Blue offer special holiday festivities and great ideas to spend New Years Eve with your loved ones.

Besides taking a cruise, some of the restaurants can provide a great eating experience and waterfront views. Some of the favorites are Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, Big City Chicken, Frankie’s Pizza, and Tiny Tavern where you can stop for a cocktail.

Presently, the Fifth Third Bank is sponsoring Winter Wonderfest at the pier Friday, November 30, 2018 – Sunday, January 6, 2019. featuring 170,000 square feet of carnival rides, giant slides, holiday-themed activities, and Indoor Ice Skating Rink, and more.

Celebrate your Chicago New Year’s Eve. Book your tickets to the 7th Annual Chicago Resolution Gala. The Resolution Gala is the top Chicago New Year’s Eve party going down this year. Every year up to 3,000 guests gather inside of the Grand Ballroom to ring in their New Year. Celebrate your night with food, drinks, a top live DJ, and the perfect intro to 2018 in Chicago!

 

Just Thankful

Thanksgiving’s historical beginnings belong to the Pilgrims and the Winnebago Indians who celebrated the harvest festival. For us, it is a day of remembrance that we spend with family featuring fine foods such as turkey, giblets, stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and a variety of pies, pumpkin usually being the first on everyone’s list. Good food, though a part of the Thanksgiving history, is always a priority and excuse for any holiday here in the US.

However, another added tribute to Thanksgiving is football in America as the male counterparts of the family gather in front of the set, stomachs ready for the game ahead though in some households many try to make that annual attempt to toss their own ball in the back as the women wait to see who will be the first injured player. But that is ok, it is tradition.

As families prepare for the festivities gathering the necessary ingredients for the grand table, many do find some quiet time to evaluate the year and decide what they are truly thankful for during the holiday season. And the list can vary from the joy of being a grandparent to even finding a close parking space on Black Friday. But, thankfully, Thanksgiving encourages the lists of thanks for the simple pleasures, wonderful people, and maybe just another year of life to spend with those we love. Gratitude is taught and hopefully remembered throughout our days beyond the yearly celebration where we can truly reflect on how lucky we are in our own light.

So here it is again, my list of never ending thankful moments and surprisingly, with the exception of new personal introductions of family and friends, it always focuses on the same.

  • I am thankful for time and not wasting it.
  • I am thankful for great books, hobbies and the word bored that is not a part of my vocabulary
  • I am thankful for logs in my fireplace and the fire starters that really work.
  • I am thankful that I refuse to give up on my dreams.
  • I am thankful that I will never be too old.
  • I am thankful that my daughter bakes better pastries than me.
  • I am thankful that Len does all the cooking
  • But I am thankful for my son who gave me a instant pot to try to cook once again and I love it
  • I am thankful for all my classroom children that teach me how to be a child again
  • I am thankful for Gladys Knight and the Pips my favorite recording of “You Are the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me” because it honors so many in my life.
  • I am thankful for our service men and women who courageously fight today and sacrifice their own desires
  • I am thankful for my pet, who is always waiting for me
  • I am thankful that I don’t have to choose my words carefully; my pet always knows what I mean.
  • I am thankful that my mistakes have guided others.
  • I am thankful for all of you who so faithfully read my articles and for those out there that always bounce back when life seems to curve so dangerously without warning and inspire others to charge ahead with positive anticipation and grace.

And, finally, as my personal collection of years keep passing me by, I am truly grateful that my gratitude list richly grows for without the essence of being grateful for so much, nothing else can make a difference.

Originally published in Grand Magazine http://www.grandmagazine.com/2012/11/what-to-be-thankful-for-this-thanksgiving/

Talking turkey

By Caryl Clem:

Coastal Thanksgiving festivals

Feature local stars to dance unto tables.

Juicy duets of cranberry and apple

Bacon flavor veggies with caramelized onion.

Russian Salmon Pie and Salmon Mousse share room

Pumpkin or squash cream cheese couples.

Dixie land Spoon Bread, Johnny Cake

Competes with rich Pecan Pie to partake

Or Southern favorite Shoofly Sweet Potato Pie.

A sweet tooth finds impossible to deny.

Dressing the turkey, bread and shored oysters

Blend taste sensations of land and waters .

Texans deep fry the turkey in the finale

Served alongside steaming hot tamales.

Mid-west maple or cider  marinated turkeys glazed

Empty plates to earn words of praise.

Kicked up with Southwestern hot chili pepper

Cranberry/Orange cinnamon spice sauce flavor

No matter what your family consumes

Relax, enjoy relatives tasty customs.

Generosity

By Caryl Clem:

Kindness and empathy spin

Words that make you grin.

Spreading mental sunshine

Spiritual goldmine.

 

Physical evidence of  caring

Charitable donation sharing

Multiple systems, non-profit versions

Human generosity, busy repairing

Play it forward, ease another’s burden.

 

Victims of major disasters crushed

By any Mother Nature’s devastation

Homesteads damaged or  broken

Victims feeling lost without protection.

Americans have a network to trust

Courageous trained rescue organizations

State to State Red Cross volunteers

Join Fire and Police Service workers

Create then secure a new beginning,

Human lifelines determined on winning.

 

I am thankful for educator’s ingenuity

Encouraging every student’s identity

Inspiring, planting the seed

Every student has the power to succeed.

 

Thankful for the spirit of generosity

Living on in human acts of charity.

Thankful for copy machines

Once again, I have to call the specialists from the main office. While I am copying away on colored paper, two sided and stapled, it digitally informs me that there is a jam somewhere in the monster of the machine. It happens quite alot for me sometimes asking for permission to go on…strange commands…that even the jam specialists are not sure what they mean….time to re-set.

And believe it or not, during my first year of teaching, it was Mrs. Johnson, a senior teacher, who taught me how to copy classroom material on the good old mimeograph machine, or a ditto machine; that many of you may never have heard of before. I was terrified and I had to watch carefully…many times. It had become an art for her. All staff at the school watched her turn out perfect copy. I don’t think that happened for me.

There was also a distinctive smell with the freshly printed paper. The ditto machine used an alcohol-based fluid to dissolve some of the dye in the document, and transferred the image to the copy paper. The smell came from the ditto machine’s duplicating fluid, a mix of methanol and isopropanol.

Mimeographs, along with spirit duplicators (ditto machines) , were a common technology in printing small quantities, as in office work, classroom materials, and church bulletins. It was widespread and cheap. In the late 1960’s, early 1970’s, mimeographs, spirit duplicators, and hectographs began to be gradually replaced by photocopying. But photocopying machines were extremely expensive.

It wasn’t too long after that we experienced our first Xerox machine. Xerox became so successful that, in North America, photocopying came to be popularly known as “xeroxing.” I still say it. And the training was so intensive even though collating, colored paper or stapling was not an option.

Now, its a commercial, digital or analog copy machine. And Xerox is still around..quite the giant… though there are several brands. The average office copy machine cost $1,500 with higher grade copiers reaching $12,000 and beyond depending on printing speed, quality, and advanced features like stapling, scanning and faxing options. You may rent or lease them as well.

This time I did not call the jam patrol. I decided to take a deep breath and not be so afraid of making a situation worse. Now, the arrow points to exactly where the jam is and it was where the paper fed into the machine. Typical, but I did not see anything. I removed the paper,re stacked the paper and closed the drawer. I hit start and I couldn’t believe it…..it worked! Wow, maybe I will try this again sometime!

 

Thankful for birthdays

Birthdays! The joy of a new life, a truly momentous occasion for all ages, a new beginning, a new pleasure or just thankful you have lived another year.

Assisting in the kindergarten, the children’s birthdays are the most treasured day of their young lives. In the 1960s, I felt exactly the same way. Even though I can watch my home movies Dad took of my parties in the finished basement and see the real thing, I understand the same feeling the little ones experience today. I remember that incredible nervous feeling waiting for my friends to arrive for my day with presents for me…….no one else. I was extremely fortunate that my parents planned great parties with plates and napkins that matched, a bakery birthday cake decorated with my choice of theme; one year was a carnival cake.  Sometimes, we had noisemakers, hats or bubbles as favors. And always ice cream!

But birthdays lost their sentiment through high school, college, until the dreaded legal one though I don’t remember getting drunk. Throughout my 20s, I taught high school and again..classroom parties were few and far between until I turned 30. That was the age I  finally seemed credible…even as a teacher.

In 1988, my one year old son cried terrifying tears while several guests sang happy birthday to him. It was the first time I had ever seen a child uncomfortable at birthday time. Strange, he still does not like that kind of attention in his 30’s. But it did improve with the birth of my daughter who treasured theme parties to plan such as The Little Mermaid, Pocahontas and parties reserved at places like Let’s Dress Up.

When she was about 10, we passed out tickets, rather than invitations, from the White Star Line to travel on the Titanic where they ate in the Grand ballroom and experienced a surprise sinking of the ship during a sleep over. My son and I handed out life jackets and we told the girls that they had to climb into plastic boats in the backyard. On a beautiful summer night, we drenched them with a hose. They didn’t complain and after drying off, they watched the new movie.

This month is my birthday. It is actually marked on the classroom calendar. November 21 is the day, the day before Thanksgiving this year….a day off of school. One girl asked me how old I was and she was confused. She couldn’t count that high!  Those numbers are still foreign to her. Me too! But she doesn’t care as long as I can still sing and dance. Certainly I have more birthdays behind me than ahead, but I am thankful. I am truly grateful.

And I will celebrate; making my own page for my birthday book in class. We have shared many coloring techniques together and I love to color. They can still sing happy birthday to me without the cha cha cha. They can still give me a hug, a high five, a special handshake,  a completed, detailed job coloring their own birthday artwork for me or just a warm smile. And another wonderful day will be spent with the kindergarten class who still helps me out when random aches and pains strike and they know its time for a chair. Many will sit with me on a bench in the playground during recess. Not afraid to become too close.

And probably the best birthday of all time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5 Words

By Caryl Clem

Standing while singing the Star Spangled Banner

By the last lingering note, I shed a tear

Overwhelmed by the sheer determination

The United States Armed Services has shown.

Once summoned to protect their land

Overcoming any obstacle, our best women and men

Risking everything to face danger head on

Bravery, loyalty wrapped in a uniform.

 

For the hours of dedication

For leaving your families behind

For the safety of our nation

5 word summation

THANK YOU FOR YOUR SERVICE

You are the strength that protects our future

Guardians of what America stands for.