Simply Give; Give Simply

Dear Readers:

I have done a “simply give; give simply” post for the past couple of years now.




This year’s is going out without the bells and whistles (photos and detailed descriptions) because if I wait any longer it will be of no use to anyone.

All of the following links are for gift ideas (or websites with lists of ideas) that support what I think are good causes.

Made by Survivors:
Tree of LIfe necklace Made by Survivors   *dove of peace pin made from bombshell casings, image below*


Beautiful doves of peace, made more meaningful by their source. Cambodian artisans shape these doves and their universal message from recycled brass bomb casings. War in Cambodia littered the landscape with unexploded bombs. Artisans group Rajana helps young people gain skills in handicrafts production and marketing, transforms bomb casings into fashion statements for peace.


Enjoy exploring!

Merry giving and receiving.

Peace and Grace to you all.





The Tromp Queen Recommends…

Every once in a while I get excited about something and feel the need to share with whomever is willing to listen. Today, that is you!


I recently discovered Outlander, which is both a collection of novels by Diana Gabaldon and a TV series on the STARZ network.

The basic premise has to do with accidental time travel by means of a Stonehenge-ish set of stones near Inverness Scotland. A woman is taken from 1945 back to 1743; the books (and very well done TV series) deal with her life in both eras.

Can the future be changed? Can love heal all wounds? Are our paths governed by fate, destiny, faith, honor, love or chance (or some combination all those things)?

The characters are well developed, and the historical details are woven intricately into the story. I’ve literally laughed and cried (not at the same time) while reading the books and while watching the series.

I bought all 8 (verra long) books for my Kindle (currently reading book 6) and ordered both seasons of the show on Bluray. (Season two releases on Nov. 1; Season three is shooting now in Scotland.)

Also, who knew kilts could be so sexy? I’ve not been paying attention apparently.

13 Problems only people obsessed with Outlander understand. (read the list here)


If you have trouble falling asleep now and then (or even every night), this is the only thing I’ve found that helps while not making me feel groggy and out of sorts the next morning. It is called simply “Sleep.”

Nature Made "Sleep" (sleep aid)

The brand is Nature Made. CVS often has it on sale for buy one, get one free.
Trader Joe's Dolmas

After our trip to Turkey a couple of years ago, I’ve been on the lookout for foods I can make here that are similar to foods we ate there. One item that is very good and tastes very authentic to me is available at Trader Joe’s.

Take them out of the can, drizzle them with a little lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and you are good to go! Delicious.

Good measuring cups and spoons are necessary kitchen equipment. Until recently I was using a couple of sets of old plastic measuring cups. I ordered some good stainless steel ones and they are so nice! Click here to order them from Amazon for only $7.95 (for one set of cups and one set of spoons) carry ear buds with me most of the time. I love this little case. It is small and sturdy; most importantly it keeps the ear buds untangled and intact. The item is called

Case Star ® Black Earphone handsfree headset HARD EVA Case – Clamshell/MESH Style with Zipper Enclosure, Inner Pocket, and Durable Exterior + Silver Climbing Carabiner with Case Star Velvet Bag

and it looks like this:


At Amazon and you can order one here.



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We visited the Milwaukee County Zoo last weekend.  I’m always drawn to the same animals.

I love the big cats and the flamingos.

I love watching polar bears, seals, sea lions and otters swim.

I enjoy listening to the little ones declare loudly what they are seeing.

I love the zoo signs that make all the grown-ups instant Biology Professors.

I never get tired of watching the people and the animals. I’m not sure which is more entertaining, but the interaction between the groups is definitely the best.

Shooting Mermaids

I grew up in a small town. When I was in college, I used to describe it as 699 people and 1 stoplight. It is a little larger than that now– population now around 1,100 with 3 stoplights–but it is definitely still a small town.

My hometown is a pretty special place, though.

My beautiful hometown lake.

The area has dozens of lakes. Seventy-five to be exact (in the county).

Kosciusko County Lakes, public domain photo

Because of all these lakes, the area is very popular with weekend visitors. Many people drive several hours just to spend a couple of days “at the lake.” We lovingly call these visitors “Lakers.” They arrive in droves on Memorial Day Weekend and are there all summer until Labor Day weekend, with more on the weekends. They rent cottages or stay in hotels; they float on pontoons, ski behind power boats and fish until their hearts are content.

The big summer event happens in June, though.

Every year since 1945 during the last full week of June, the Lions Club in my hometown has hosted a Mermaid Festival. There is a carnival, elephant ears, salt water taffy, caramel corn, a beauty pageant and a cutie contest, a talent contest, and two parades with floats and marching bands.

Rinker’s store, Main St.

Mom and I were in the old Rinker’s store which is now a consignment antique mall looking at the antiques. Mom saw one of the old mermaid signs that used to hang on the downtown streetlight poles during the Mermaid Festival. The signs were painted by a local artist and some people thought they were a little too risqué. 

1-mermaid nw-001
Vintage Mermaid sign

Mom started talking about how much a local feisty elderly woman hated the mermaids and actually took a shot at one that someone put out by her house (as a joke).

The elderly woman got arrested and hauled into “the hoosegow.”(Mom’s word for jail.)

I said something like she shouldn’t have a gun if she thinks it is reasonable to go around shooting at mermaids.

A lady came around the corner and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I’m over here freaking out because I thought my whole life mermaids were NOT real.”

I chuckled and assured her that she was indeed correct in her assumption that mermaids were not real — and then went on to explain we were talking about mermaid SIGNS not actual mermaids. She looked relieved and we all had a good laugh.



Information about upcoming Mermaid Festivals.

Mermaid Festival Facebook page. 

Growing through concrete

Yesterday I drove to Chicago and back to see a friend. I drove through the usual mess of road construction and major traffic snarls. The closer I got to the Loop, the more bogged down the traffic got.  As I sat (at a standstill) I glanced at the cement median. Along several cracks in the concrete, I noticed grass and wild flowers growing. Not just growing — thriving.

I considered taking a photo but I couldn’t reach my camera safely. (So I found some similar photos on Flickr. See gallery below.)

I thought about how sometimes we feel like those weeds and flowers. Hanging on by a few fragile roots, in the middle of a hot unforgiving place, with just a tiny fragment of space, little or no resources — but still finding a way to not only survive but to actually bloom.

That trite saying “bloom where you are planted” has truth. I’ve had to move more times than I have wanted. Each time, the process of leave-taking then starting over commences: the good-byes, the leave-taking, then being the outsider, mustering the bravada to carry on, and finally searching for the new “normal.”

I got my first teaching job in the summer of 1985. It was in a tiny town just east of Urbana, IL. The band room was surrounded by a tar and chip parking lot. As I prepared for the first marching band rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised to see some lovely pink lilies pop up out of the tiny seam between the building and the pavement. My mom told me they were Resurrection Lilies. I later discovered other names for them:  Magic Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Naked Ladies, lycorissquamigera, and Amaryllidaceae.

They pop up out of no where (or seem to), bloom and then whither away all in a week or so. Each year I taught there (four, to be exact), I looked forward to seeing those lilies.

Beauty finds a way. Life finds a way. Always.


Then today, I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.

From Word Porn
From Word Porn


Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0

Remembering Violet

1-Violet Yount Schwob-001

Once upon a time in a small town in Indiana, a young man named Cecil married a young woman named Violet on July 10, 1926. A little more than two years later, Violet died in the fall of 1928 of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 22. Her burial took place at Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, Indiana. The grave is marked with a simple, small grey tombstone with black lettering.

On Christmas Day of 1930, Cecil married Edith. They were married for over 66 years. My mother is their first-born of four children.

1-Cecil Schwob and car

I’m Cecil and Edith’s grandchild. I’ve been doing family history research for a little over a year now, though I’ve been interested in family stories and connections for much longer than that.

Decoration Day

My mom refers to Memorial Day as Decoration Day. She isn’t alone in this tradition. My Dad’s relatives have a tradition of decorating family graves for Memorial Day. This usually happens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend or a few days before that. Many relatives are buried in just a few cemeteries within a short driving distance. Sometimes there are several cars moving in a caravan from place to place; sometimes there are just one or two cars. Each family grave stone is cleaned. Weeds are pulled. Live flowers are planted or planters hung from hooks. Silk flowers are stuck into the ground. Photos are taken. We often end up at a local restaurant for a fun family lunch afterward.

We missed the decorating day this year, but my mom and I made the trip to Woodlawn on Saturday anyway. We had arranged to meet a couple of cousins there.

Dale Schwob
Dale Schwob, 1909 – 1923 Woodlawn Cemetery Warren, IN

Mom and I happened to park near Violet’s grave. She is buried next to Grandpa’s brother who died of influenza at the age of 17 just a few years before Violet’s death. We have many relatives buried in that area of the cemetery.

Our cousins arrived and we stood talking for several minutes. As we chatted, I noticed a man and a woman walking from a car parked some distance away. They seemed to be making their way directly toward Violet’s grave.

Sure enough, they stopped right in front of her grave marker.

I couldn’t resist asking if they were related to Violet.

The woman looked at me intently and said, “Why are you asking?”

I replied that my grandfather had been married to Violet when she died.

The woman was flabbergasted. Her father was Violet’s brother; Violet had been her first cousin.

I pointed to my mother and said, “Cecil’s daughter is right over there.”

Mom and our cousins came over and everyone got introduced to each other. The woman, Leilani, and Mom had quite a conversation, and shared several reminiscences. They talked about Naomi who was the sole surviving person from that earlier generation. I remembered some of Leilani’s Aunts and Uncles. We had often gone with them and with my Grandparents on fishing vacations at cottages in northern Michigan.

Mom and Leilani, talking near Violet’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, IN.

I asked if Leilani had a photo of Violet. She said no but she would love to have one. I told her I had one and would be very happy to send it to her. Mom asked Leilani if she had any photos of her parents that she could share in return. She readily agreed. We exchanged addresses and promised to send the items soon.

I didn’t hear about “Grandpa’s first wife” until about 30 years ago. Grandpa was in the hospital and I was visiting my Grandmother at her home. She casually mentioned her concern that Grandpa might want to be buried by his first wife instead of beside her. I was shocked and speechless for a few moments. I had no idea he had been married before! My Grandparents had been happily married since 1930 and no one had EVER mentioned a previous marriage or anyone named Violet.

I quietly asked her a few questions. They were young. She was pretty. Her name was Violet. She was a Yount. She died of consumption. They didn’t have any children. She and Grandpa met a few years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

I assured Grandma that I was sure he would want to be buried next to her, not Violet.

So that is why the Yount family has always been close to Mom’s family. I thought they were just friends. The reason was much deeper — they were related by a long ago marriage that ended tragically.

I can’t help thinking — If Violet hadn’t died, my mother would not have been born and by extension, neither would I.

88 years after her death, I’m thankful Violet is remembered and her memory is honored by her family.  I’m thankful for the encounter we had in the cemetery near her grave, discovering relatives in common after so many years.

1-IMG_0062 (2)
Cecil and Violet, marriage certificate July 10, 1926.





This week has had some odd moments.

sharks and jets
Sharks and Jets ready to rumble. Google image from West Side Story.

I’m Not Throwing Away My Shot

As I drove to choir rehearsal on Tuesday evening, I witnessed a fairly large group of  young people (high school to 20s) gearing up for a fight.  They were on the sidewalk and spilling out onto the road.  Guys were charging toward each other, and a couple of them were pulling off their shirts.

I couldn’t decide if I should slow down or speed up.  I was going to drive by about when the groups would collide.  Could I find my phone to call 911?  What if someone has a gun and shoots it?  I could get hit by a stray bullet…

Though I had my windows up and music playing, I could their angry voices.  I kept a steady speed and drove by.  I looked in my rear view mirror as several people (males and females) physically put themselves between those who were intent on fighting.  I admired their bravery and said a prayer of thanks for their courage.

I got a little further away and slowed down as I tried (again) to decide if I should call 911 or not .  If I called, what would I say?  Nothing happened; it just appeared that something was on the verge of happening.  But what if the peace makers didn’t succeed?

I didn’t call.  I went to choir.  I wonder what happened.


Popeye’s red beans and rice side dish. Google image.

Red Beans and Rice.

One of my food-related “guilty pleasures” is to have Popeye’s shrimp or chicken with a side of their tasty red beans and rice. As I hurried from my morning of teaching to an afternoon gig to accompany a group of singers for an hour long program at a senior citizen lunch, I realized I only had about 30 minutest to eat. I decided to drive through Popeye’s. Well, at least in the Milwaukee area, you need to be prepared for at least a 10 to 15 minute drive through “experience” but I figured that would still give me 15 minutes to eat.

There was only one car ahead of me and they were sitting at the ordering speaker.  I took the risk.  I watched the car clock tick away the minutes.  I considered going to another fast food place (there were several in the near vicinity).  I decided to stay.  I ordered.  I waited. My food appeared many minutes later.  I didn’t want to sit in the that parking lot to eat so I drove away looking for a little nicer place to park.

I stopped at a library branch.  I felt a little guilty because of the large warning sign: “Parking for Library Patrons ONLY.  Violators will be towed.”  I reasoned with myself that I AM a library patron because I borrow ebooks all the time and my library card is in the Milwaukee County Federated Library System.  All of this is secondary to my upcoming drama with the red beans and rice, though.

The shrimp was hot and spicy.  It was delicious.  The chicken was hot and crispy, too. I saved the red beans and rice for last.  I opened the container.  Yes! They gave me a spork this time!  (I have eaten them using the lid as a “spoon” more than once).

I was trying to open the plastic covering the spork and somehow managed to spill nearly ALL the container of beans and rice on myself.  I was stunned.  What on earth could I do to clean this up well enough to perform on stage with only a few napkins and only a few minutes to spare? As Dr. Seuss so famously said, “This mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we can not clean it up!  There is no way at all!”

dr seuss
Dr. Seuss quote. Google image.

I was wearing black pants and shirt with a long red knit jacket over.  The jacket had a batik -ish pattern printed on it.  It was made so the serged seams were showing on the outside as part of the design.  The fact that the jacket is somewhat reversible becomes an important point.

I got out of the car.  I brushed off as much as I could.  Birds and squirrels were going to have a treat.  I used the spork.  I used the napkins. Most of it came off, but there were HUGE splotches in several places.

I wondered if I could wear the jacket inside out?  The decorative seams would be on the inside and the stains would most likely not show through as much that way.  I only needed to find a pair of scissors to cut out the tag.  It could work!

Ultimately, I wore it right side out.  I did find scissors.  I did cut the tag out.  I did try it wrong side out.  In the end it seemed best to leave it “as is.” Most of the staining was on the left side, which as it turned out would be facing away from the audience.

Moral of the story:  Open your spork BEFORE you open your beans and rice.

The biggest lingering problem? A very strong fragrance of Eau de red beans and rice.



Anne Ruthmann Lockdown
Lockdown image by Anne Ruthmann, via Flickr CC license


I accompany two children’s choirs.  At the second rehearsal this week, during our break one of the girls told us about a lockdown at her school.  She said it happened right away in the morning.  There were police cars in the cemetery across the road from her school. They huddled in their lockdown positions for a very long time.  She asked if any of us had been in a lockdown before and nearly everyone raised their hands (including me). She said she felt scared and began to cry. Someone asked did you find out what happened?  Yes.  There was a man digging his own grave and he shot himself in the head.  She said she didn’t know if he died or not.

I told her I always feel the need to apologize to my students after a lockdown drill.  I’m so sorry they have to go through such a scary experience.  Most of the lockdown time I spend wondering if it is real or not and what I would do if someone came in shooting.  Is this the day the unimaginable happens?

The school day went on as usual for the girl and her schoolmates.  So many aspects of her story leave me feeling extremely sad and somewhat hopeless.

Accession Number: 1974:0193:0195 Maker: Southworth & Hawes Title: Unidentified Child Date: ca. 1850
Southworth and Hawes image; George Eastman House public domain image of unidentified child, c. 1850.

*A quick online search did not yield any shooting or homicide in the MKE area this week that matched this girl’s story.  I wonder if the explanation she heard came from a teacher or a student.  Sounds like an elementary school rumor, but one can’t be sure.  Often real life is stranger than fiction.

*You can read about my very first lockdown experience here.












Tromp Queen: The Evangelist

Calvin Smith preach
“Preach” image by Calvin Smith via Flickr CC generic license. Speaker’s Corner, London 2007

Sometimes I feel like an evangelist. I feel excited about something I’ve discovered or I have some knowledge that seems relevant to share. Whatever the reason, I find myself telling people about things they might be interested in or that might be of help to them.

Here is my current list of “really great things”:

  1.  Hamilton. The Musical.Months ago, my daughter suggested I should listen to the soundtrack.
    “I think you’d really like it, Mom.”
    Yeah, hmmm. I wasn’t sure.
    I knew it was a hot ticket on Broadway in NYC but I also knew it had a hip-hop and/or rap vibe.
    Not really my wheel-house.But earlier this week I finally asked her to put it on a memory stick for me so I could put it on my iPod.

    Yes, I’m a musician, professional pianist and music teacher — but I mostly listen to music in the car not at home.
    I tend to get too caught up in listening that I end up getting nothing done.
    Unless it is a special genre of what I call “house cleaning music” but that fills a special purpose.
    I digress.


    Hamilton.  The Musical.
    Anyway, It took me a few trips around town to listen to the whole soundtrack, but even before I finished the whole thing I was already telling pretty much every I met that I LOVED it and that they should listen to it, too. Right away! I have listened to it numerous times now and I am still hearing new things in it.

    I’m so excited about it that I’m going to organize a group to go see the show when it comes to Chicago this fall. I can’t wait!

  2. Zenni Optical. Yes, you can order excellent quality inexpensive eyeglasses online. I got three pairs for about $30 including shipping. THREE pairs. I recently bought a pair of glasses at a local eyeglass store that cost nearly $400! I honestly can’t tell the difference between the expensive pairs and the very inexpensive pairs.
    This pair is on my wish list. Zenni Optical.

    Zenni has a very good website. You need your prescription from your eye doctor (with the pupillary distance if possible, but that is not essential since the website tells you how to measure it yourself). You can upload a photo of your face so that you can try the frames on YOUR photo. I found that it takes about an hour to get the photo and prescription enetered, choose your glasses and fill out the order form.

    I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I’ve ordered SEVEN pairs of glasses from Zenni (so far.) I stepped on one pair and one pair is AWOL, but they cost about as much as two grande mochas so I don’t feel horrible about it.

    I LOVE the cool frames. I have a pair that green multicolor, bright blue plastic, a purple polka-dotted pair, blue wire half-rims, and a pair that look Mondrian-ish. The pair that looks like wood is the AWOL pair, but I have hope they will turn up.

    Seriously. Wouldn’t a nice pair of trendy, colorful, hip eyeglasses perk up your day?

  3. Penzeys Spices. I’ve used these spices for probably two decades or more. There IS a difference in quality over the grocery store brands. These are some of my essentials: Cinnamon (I have three different kinds), Chili Powder (two kinds), Peppercorns (Special India Extra Bold), Rogan Josh (curry blend), Sweet Curry, Northwest Seasoning, Double Strength Pure Vanilla Extract, Italian Seasoning, Cocoa (two kinds), nutmeg, Chicago Steak Seasoning.



  4. Take Vitamin D. Most people don’t get enough of this vitamin, especially in the winter months and especially up North. I take 1000 IU a day. The RDA is lower than that, but the research I’ve read seems to suggest a higher amount than the RDA. Some recommend up to 2000 IU a day.  The studies that most convinced me to take the extra Vitamin D were those identifying lower cancer risk and lower incidence of colds/flu with higher levels of Vitamin D. Check some Vitamin D facts here.
  5. Thrift Books. I have to thank my niece and my sister for this tip. If you don’t want to pay full retail, you still enjoy reading “real” books, and you don’t mind if your books are “pre-owned” — this is the site for you! You can find all sorts of books and most are $3 or less. You can get free shipping with orders over $10. They have saved over 200 million of books from going into landfills! Good stuff.
    thrift books
  6. Goodwill. Favorite things to find: jewelry (gemstones and glass beaded necklaces and earrings either to wear or tear apart to make new creations), cashmere sweaters, silk scarves, original art and photography, books (cookbooks, too), CDs, leather purses, picture frames and so many useful, beautiful items over the years.

    find a grave

  7. Find A Grave and My two (FREE) “go to” sites for family history research. I already wrote a blog post about this whole topic, so you can read more about this there.


    There are many more but I won’t continue to go into so much detail. I’ll leave you with brief list of past evangelistic crusades I’ve been on:
    A&E Pride and Prejudice (Yes, all five hours of it).
    Humans of New York (Facebook page)
    Terry Pratchett (author, Discworld series)
    Shutterfly (make your own books)
    Colossal:  website devoted to photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing, and street art

I’m sure I’ll think of other items to add to this list as soon as I post it.


As I am winding up this blog post, I realized suddenly that I read an article recently about having  a friend who was always making connections between people and always had a recommendation to give about almost everything.  I can’t find the article and I can’t remember the term for the person who doled out the advice and links. (If anyone happens to have read it or finds something similar, please let me know!) There wasn’t a negative connotation; the point was that this person was a good type of friend to have.  They know a lot of people, and they have a lot of knowledge about a wide range of topics/places/people/things/ideas/etc which they share freely and without any ulterior motive or need for approval/praise. I wonder if I’m this type of friend.  I hope I’m not annoying!  I do tend to share things I’m excited about, though —

What are some things, recommendations, or topics you tend to get evangelistic about?



Sometimes you just have to go home and eat a ham sandwich.
Roast chicken image by urban bohemian, via Flickr CC license

It was Christmas Eve.

My husband had gone grocery shopping that afternoon with a list I had made. Unfortunately, he forgot to buy the main ingredients for two items I had planned to have for dinner that evening.

Normally, grocery shopping is my domain. But I had done nearly ALL of the Christmas shopping and gift wrapping, so he had volunteered to do this errand today.

He had gone to two stores already to get various items. I didn’t want him to have to go out into the fray again, so I tried to figure out alternatives.

One item we could easily do without. I had wanted to make that yummy spinach dip with the water chestnuts and Knorr vegetable soup mix. Yes. Nosh and nibble. It is kind of impossible to make without the soup mix. The other thing was a deli roasted chicken that was going to go into a made-from-scratch chicken pot-pie. You can’t really make a pot-pie without a chicken.

I looked in my freezer. No chicken.

I decided to run to the nearest grocery store to get one.

I got a parking spot (which is surprising since the small lot is usually packed). I got to the door and a young woman stopped me saying, “I’m sorry we’re closed. I can’t let you go in.” I looked at her blankly.

“What time did you close?” I asked.

“5,” she answered.

I looked at my blank left wrist where I usually have a watch. I thought I had left home well before 5 (and we only live a few minutes from the store).

I looked back at her and calmly asked, “Well, what time is it now?”

She said, “I don’t know but it is after that.”

I said, “I really need a chicken. Don’t they have some left in there?” (looking past her longingly into the store…)

Again, “Sorry. I can’t let you in.” Then she added helpfully, “Maybe try Pick-and-Save? I’m sure they’ll still be open.”

I wasn’t trying to be uncooperative. I had my tastebuds set on delicious home-made chicken pot-pie. My daughter had volunteered to make it for our dinner and I was really looking forward to it! Sigh.

I got back in my car. The clock read 5:02 pm. I groaned inwardly. Really? They kept me from buying a chicken because of one lousy minute?

I sighed (again) and decided to drive the 10 minutes or so to the other store.

Driving.  Traffic.  Stoplights.

I got to the parking lot and drove slowly by the main doors. There was a cluster of people there.  I had a sinking feeling that I knew why they were there.  I rolled down my window.


Yep. Sorry.

As I slowly drove away I said out the window to no one in particular , “I really need a chicken!”

I tried to think of where I could get a chicken (cooked or raw). I thought of our favorite Greek place. Their baked/broiled Athenian chicken is delicious, juicy and always quick to pick up. Or even better, I could get Greek food for dinner and then my daughter could make the pot-pie for Christmas dinner or the next day.

More driving. More traffic. More stop lights.

Nope. The Greek place was closed. No chicken. No carry out food.

Hey — The Boston Market back there was still open. They have cooked chickens! I pulled in hopefully. Yes. They were indeed open. I walked to the door. YES. There was as short line. The person behind the counter said to everyone, “We are out of chicken and meatloaf. No more chicken or meatloaf.” Sigh.

I turned around and went back to my car.

Hungry. Tired of traffic. Feeling frazzled.

But I was determined not to get angry.

Hey. He DID buy the ham for tomorrow. We could cut it open and carve some slices off the bottom. I also had him get swiss cheese and buns so I could make those tasty hot ham sandwiches with some leftover ham. We could have those tonight! It is fast and we have all the ingredients. We had enough carrots and fruit to round things out for a meal.


I sent a quick text. “I’m coming home. No chicken, but I have a plan.”

Sometimes you just have to go home and eat a ham sandwich, even when you really want to have chicken pot-pie.
Mmm…hot ham and cheese with homemade mustard. Image by jeffreyw Via Flickr CC license.


Now I realize this whole story is a 1st world problem.  I’m thankful for a refrigerator full of food, for a fully equipped kitchen to cook food in, a home to eat it in, a car to drive to the grocery and a range of very luxurious grocery stores within short driving distance of our home.  All these things are blessings and I’m truly grateful for all of them.

Sometimes we have to remember to be flexible in our expectations and desires.  Let it go.  Anger leads to the dark side.  (Hah!  Couldn’t resist the Star Wars reference!)  Chicken or ham.  It’s all good.

For the recipes mentioned in this post, please visit my food blog: The Tromp Queen COOKS! (I’ll post them in the next few days.)

Spinach Dip

Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

Chicken Pot-Pie













Gifts that Give Back 2

Rwanda Path to Peace Basket Collection at Macy’s
Macy’s Rwandan Woven Basket Collection

I realize this post is probably too late to be of any real help with Christmas gift shopping for this year.  But maybe others, like me, wait until the very last moment to get those last few (or many) items. These ideas are also excellent ideas for gift giving for any event all year long.

37 ideas from Huff post.  The social enterprises listed give back either a portion of the revenues to a cause, donate an item for an item sold, or directly invest in people by creating meaningful job opportunities.

who's sari now
“Who’s Sorry Now” jewelry by Rosena Sammi.

Daily News.  2015 Holiday Gift Guide of Gifts that Give Back.

Real Simple. Gifts that Give Back — That your friends actually want.


For more ideas, you can also browse my previous posts featuring Gifts that Give Back:
2014  Gifts that Give Back.

2013 Radical Gift Giving.



These gifts don’t give back, but they seem like some really great (simple and inexpensive) ideas.  Click here.


The I Am poem

Sunday night means writing lesson plans.

As I was cruising the internet for inspiration and resources, I found this gem.   It is the format for a poem: The “I Am” poem, specifically.

I Am Poem (format)

I am (two special characteristics about your personality) I wonder (something you are actually curious about) I hear (a saying that someone might say to you that encourages/discourages) I am on a journey toward (a vision for your future/challenge in your present) I want (an actual desire that you hold for yourself) I am (the first line of the poem restated)

I pretend (something you actually pretend to do) I feel (a feeling about something imaginary that is holding you back) I touch (an imaginary touch) I worry (something that really bothers you) I cry (something that makes you very sad) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

I understand (something you know is true about yourself/context) I say (something you believe in) I dream (something you dream about for your future) I try (something you really make an effort to do/understand) I hope (something you actually hope for yourself/context) I am (the first line of the poem repeated)

multicolored rose
Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0

My result:

I am musical and creative.  I wonder about a lot of things
I hear keep putting one foot in front of the other.
I am on a journey toward an unknown future.
I want peace.
I am musical and creative.

I pretend everything is okay.
I feel like I’m underwater.
I touch cold space.
I worry about being shot.
I cry for beauty.
I am musical and creative.

I understand Love.

I say aspire to inspire.
I dream in color.
I try to improve.
I hope I can sleep.
I am musical and creative.

Why not give it a try?

source:  Yale National Initiative. The Odyssey: Seeing My Journey through Film Lesson plans by Susan H. Buckson Greene.


Image by The Tromp Queen, CC License BY NC SA 4.0

Wise Words from Bob Ross

caNdLE image by Sykez Tom via Flickr CC.

“You need the dark in order to show the light.”




-Reji simplicity is beauty
Simplicity is Beauty image by -Reji via Flickr CC.

“Look around. Look at what we have. Beauty is everywhere—you only have to look to see it.”




tree friend
A tree is a friend. Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC.

“There’s nothing wrong with having a tree as a friend.”





that tree2
Friend of That Tree Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC.

“Just go out and talk to a tree. Make friends with it.”

that tree
Friend of That Tree Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC.




Sandy Brown Jensen
Here I Go image by Sandy Brown Jensen via Flickr CC license.

“The secret to doing anything is believing that you can do it. Anything that you believe you can do strong enough, you can do. Anything. As long as you believe.”





Mark Chadwick Fluid Painting 92
Mark Chadwick, Fluid Painting 92 via Flickr CC.

“We artists are a different breed of people. We’re a happy bunch.”

10 Rules for Students and Teachers

NASA image via Flickr CC: Astronaut Butch Wilmore Visits Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Camp (201506240028HQ)

As a teacher, one of my fundamental desires is to “Aspire to Inspire” my students.  I found this list of rules (with a great little backstory*) and am sharing it so that you might possibly find truth in it as I did.

Swedish graphic designer Rikard Heberling’s poster of Corita’s list of 10 rules.

RULE ONE: Find a place you trust, and then try trusting it for a while.

RULE TWO: General duties of a student: Pull everything out of your teacher; pull everything out of your fellow students.

RULE THREE: General duties of a teacher: Pull everything out of your students.

RULE FOUR: Consider everything an experiment.

RULE FIVE: Be self-disciplined: this means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.

RULE SIX: Nothing is a mistake. There’s no win and no fail, there’s only make.

RULE SEVEN: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all of the time who eventually catch on to things.

RULE EIGHT: Don’t try to create and analyze at the same time. They’re different processes.

RULE NINE: Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.

RULE TEN: We’re breaking all the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.

HINTS: Always be around. Come or go to everything. Always go to classes. Read anything you can get your hands on. Look at movies carefully, often. Save everything. It might come in handy later.

*John Cage (most famous for 4’33”) was a pupil of Arnold Schoenberg (created 12-tone technique for composing music). Cage, in turn, inspired a generation of composers and artists.  One so inspired was a California nun, Sister Corita Kent, who created this list of Rules in 1968 for a class project.  For more information read this Open Culture article.

KW Barrett
Teacher of the Year – Cristina Torres. Image by KW Barrett via Flickr CC.

Photographs I wish I had stopped to take.

Kodaira cat image by Takuya Goro via Flickr CC.
Kodaira cat image by Takuya Goro via Flickr CC.

Do you ever see something out of the corner of your eye and think — “Oh! That would make a great photo!”

This seems to happen to me frequently. But I hardly ever do anything about it, and I regret that.

Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC license
Image by The Tromp Queen, via Flickr CC license

Last spring, on my drive to school I spied three red tulips that were growing in a very obscure place beneath a tangle of on/off ramps. Each day as I drove the tight right-turn of the clover leaf going under a multi-lane Interstate highway and off ramp to emerge going in my chosen direction on the Interstate I just drove under, I would see the flash of red off to my left. Each day I thought, “Bloom where you are planted. It doesn’t get any clearer than that.”

"Bloom where you are planted" quilt.  Image by Sophie via Flickr CC.
“Bloom where you are planted” quilt. Image by Sophie via Flickr CC.

How did tulips get planted in this desolate, neglected, non-landscaped area of highway underpass undergrowth? Did someone throw a few tulips out of their car window one day and they happened to land in a protected and fertile enough spot? I plant bulbs in my flower beds nearly every fall, and each fall, many of them are eaten by squirrels (or other varmints).

Each day, I thought “I should stop to take a picture of those tulips before they stop blooming.” Each day I would tell myself I didn’t have time and that there was no safe place to pull over and stop. Needless to say, there is no photograph because I never stopped. But the image has stayed with me.

Google images, 16 ft inflatable Santa with reindeer and sleigh.
Google images, 16 ft inflatable Santa with reindeer and sleigh.

Another image that I regret not stopping to document happened last fall near my school. I was with my college-aged son in the car going shopping for school necessaries when we was on break. It must have been Thanksgiving weekend because what we saw were people putting a large inflatable Santa sleigh (complete with reindeer) on top of a ranch style house. The funny part was that there were two legs sticking out from under the sleigh part, toes down. It looked like Santa had accidentally landed on someone and squished them flat. Who knows what that person was doing on the roof while Santa was trying to land, but that is beside the point. We discussed stopping but didn’t.

I WISH I had taken a few seconds to stop and take a quick photo. My son and I both laughed at the sight of those legs; at first we thought the legs were not real but were an intentional part of the scenario they were erecting. As we drove away I had the chorus of “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” running through my head.

Credit: Oliver Burston. Wellcome Images Computer illustration of a human skeleton hand. Digital artwork/Computer graphic Published:  -  Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK
Credit: Oliver Burston. Wellcome Images
Computer illustration of a human skeleton hand.
Copyrighted work available under Creative Commons by-nc-nd 2.0 UK

Just this past week I was driving on a road that goes behind the garage area of a nearby car dealership. There are always a lot of cars parked along this not-very-busy-dead-end-road; some new cars for the dealer, some cars for their repair shop; and I presume some of the cars of the dealership employees. I noticed a long black sedan type of car. Sticking out of the closed trunk was one skeleton arm and hand. It was totally creepy looking (and fake, I might add!). Again, I considered stopping but didn’t have a camera with me (not even my phone camera). Consequently — no photo.

Image by Walidhassanein:  Sunflowers via Flickr CC license.
Image by Walidhassanein: Sunflowers via Flickr CC license.

On a trip to Indiana driving at highway speed on US 30 between Valpo and Warsaw (which must be in contention for the US most boring highway) my eye caught a beautiful scene as it flashed by in an instant. There was an old red well-used barn, a field of sunflowers in full bloom, a blue sky with puffy white clouds and the whole thing was framed in green leafy trees. You guessed it: I didn’t stop.

Images by John 'K' via Flickr CC license.
Images by John ‘K’ via Flickr CC license.

Remember the NYC pizza rat? Well, I had a pizza squirrel one day in my backyard. The squirrel had pretty much a whole slice of pizza and somehow managed to carry it across our backyard, up a tree trunk and then hop to the top of the fence with it. The squirrel paused then looked at me with an accusatory glare as if to say, “This is MY pizza. Keep your hands OFF!” I wondered where he had found a whole slice of pizza and how he managed to carry it while running and climbing. I wondered if eating the pizza would make the squirrel sick. I wished I had my camera so I could catch a photo (or video!) of the pizza-toting squirrel. Alas, the only image I have of this scenario is in my mind.

Am I the only one who has these photographic regrets?
Does this happen to anyone else?

Summer Evening: Kayaking Through Downtown Milwaukee

My family has been “into” kayaks for many years now. Though we have 4 people in our family, we had 6 kayaks for quite a while. We still have five!

Image by Lori Wright: five little kayaks and how they grew. Via Flickr CC license.
Image by Lori Wright: five little kayaks and how they grew. Via Flickr CC license.

My husband is the activity cheerleader and organizer. A few weeks ago he went on a “midnight paddle” that was put on by the River Alliance of Wisconsin and Milwaukee River Keeper. The event didn’t take place at midnight — they actually started at 7:30 pm.

Image of Milwaukee River at night by Rough Tough, Real Stuff via Flickr CC license.
Image of Milwaukee River at night by Rough Tough, Real Stuff via Flickr CC license.

Since then, he has been trying to convince me to go with him on an the same route for an evening kayak trip on the Milwaukee River.

Map image of Moonlight Paddle trip; Hasker CC license.
Map image of Moonlight Paddle trip; Hasker CC license.

You might wonder why I would need to be convinced. Well, kayaking is fun while you are on the water, but there is a lot of lifting, carrying, tying down, loading and unloading involved. Since I’ve gained some weight in the last few years, it is also very difficult for me to get in and out of the boat and sometimes I end up IN the river.

Last night, I said yes.

Riverwest Outdoor Educational Adventures photo, showing the Kiwanis Landing on the Milwaukee River via Facebook (public photo)
Riverwest Outdoor Educational Adventures photo, showing the Kiwanis Landing on the Milwaukee River via Facebook (public photo)

It was nearly dark by the time we got into the boats and started down the river. There is a wonderful canoe/kayak landing hidden away which I presume was built by the Kiwanis club because there was a big canoe shaped sign proclaiming the place as “Kiwanis Landing.” For Milwaukeeans, the landing is just upriver from Bel Air and Gastropub on the north side of the river. (?)

Almost immediately I was spellbound by the experience. A mother duck and her three ducklings swam alongside of me. They might have been hoping for me to toss some food out for them, but I loved seeing them so close as they quacked, paddled their feet and chomped on bugs.

Image by Ingrid Taylor, via Flickr CC license.
Image by Ingrid Taylor, via Flickr CC license.

After the first bridge, there are condos and apartment buildings on both sides. At times the walls on both sides of the river reach so high, you feel like you’ve entered a canyon.

Going under the bridges is kind of spooky. There are ladders, dark corners and creepy little windows. Imaginations can run wild in a place such as this!   (This photo is not of the creepy ones; it was the only photo I could find of under a bridge at night in MKE.)

Image by Erik Aldrich, Pylons. Via Flickr CC license.
Image by Erik Aldrich, Pylons. Via Flickr CC license.

At one bridge, we watched while the road was lifted so that a taller boat go could through. We were passed by pontoons, huge yachts and regular speedboats. There was a LOT of boat traffic going both ways, so we were vigilant about making sure we stayed safe.

If you’ve never spent time on a boat at night, you might not realize there is a system of required lights that help everyone navigate around each other. In the front, there is supposed to be a light that is green on one side and red on the other. Red is starboard, I believe. If you see the red light, you should yield right of way. If you see the green, they are seeing your red light and it should be safe for you to proceed. If you are heading directly toward each other, you pass on the green side. All boats are supposed to have a white light in the back of the boat. For slower not very large boats like kayaks, the only required light is a plain white light in the front. We both had lights, but if we do this again — I’d prefer to have the red/green light in the front and a white light in back as the larger, faster boats are required to have. Or possibly not go on a gorgeous summer Friday night. There was LOT of boat traffic, and some boats were being driven by people who clearly didn’t have much experience (rental party boats, for instance).

The sun was down. There was a half moon in the sky. The lights from the bridges, businesses and buildings shimmered like a magic kaleidoscope on the surface of the water changing as the breeze and wave patterns evolved.

I didn’t take my camera, but my husband had his cell phone. I kept asking him to take photos because the light on the water was so mesmerizing.

People on the water are usually friendly, waving and sometimes saying a few words as boats pass each other.

We went about 2 miles or so through Milwaukee and turned around near the Public Market. We passed several outdoor patios (at restaurants and breweries for example) full of happy people, drinking and talking. One guy tried to convince me that we were heading for some dangerous rapids up ahead. Another person warned of sharks.

Image by Hasker, Singers Sausages. CC license.
Image by Hasker, Singers Sausages. CC license.

I laughed when we saw one of the letters of the Usinger’s sign was unlit.  The building now proclaims “Singer’s” — which as a music teacher and choir director I found amusing. (For non-MKE folks, Usinger’s is one of the famous sausage and bratwurst companies here).

As we paddled back toward the landing, a couple shouted “Good job; you made it!” and clapped for me. The woman added, “We saw you headed the other way.” I laughed and thanked them.

We also saw a very interesting and quirky boat docked on the river:  the Solomon Juneau.  Apparently it is a fixture on the downtown river and the man who owns it has lived in it for many years.  For additional photos of this boat, click here to see “Aboard the Solomon Juneau.”

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I kept thinking, “I grew up in my little tiny town with one stoplight and here I am paddling through the middle of a major city on a Friday night in a kayak.” You never know where life will lead you, that is for sure!

I will say, I was horrified by the amount of trash in the river, though. I can’t believe people are still so lackadaisical about throwing stuff willy-nilly into water (or anywhere not in a trash can, for that matter). Next time, I’m going to take a big trash bag (and some rubber gloves) so I can pick it out of the river. Didn’t they see that pollution commercial with the Native American and the tear running down his face??  He would have been crying again last night for sure.

But other than the trash and a few boats going too fast with clueless drivers, it was a magical evening. I can’t wait to go again!

Oh, I forgot!  We saw a great big green frog at the end as we were getting out of our boats.  He was alarmed by all the fuss, I think.

Ingird Taylor, via Flickr CC license.
Ingird Taylor, via Flickr CC license.

FREE great stuff online! (FREE!)

Georgia O’Keeffe It Was Blue and Green

I just discovered a very comprehensive, interesting and best of all FREE online resource:  

Open Culture — The best free cultural and educational media on the web.

Free Art & Images

Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image
Leonard Bernstein at the piano, wikipedia image

Great Lectures

Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license
Image by Indi Samarajiva via Flickr CC license


Book Lists By

Book Lists By

  • There is no excuse for boredom from now on.  You’re welcome.  

    (I apologize for the odd formatting quirks in this post.  I did my best, but with the copying and pasting from the Open Culture webpage there seemed to be a lot of phantom issues I could not solve).