Archive | December, 2017

Sunday Sermon and Other Stuff

11 Dec

“It may seem that you are on the path alone, but the light that guides you is coming from somewhere. Trust your every step because none of us walk this journey alone.”

Toni Sorenson


This morning, Mom was feeling well enough to go downstairs for Mass. Last week, she had no energy and felt horrible. Volunteers come every Sunday to the Greens of Elgin from St. Thomas Moore to officiate Mass and give communion. The wheel chairs and walkers processed slowly into the activity room. As I sat there, waiting for the opening song, “Oh Come, Oh Come Emmanuel,” I thought to myself…self…look at these lovely, elderly, barely able to move seniors. They can take a few minutes out of their day to attend a church service. So, next time I’m feeling lazy or I think the weather is too harsh to go out and go to church, I’ll think of these folks and the great effort it takes to attend a service. They come with a smile and they leave with a jubilant heart.

Today’s Gospel was the proclamation that someone was coming, someone powerful, who will baptize us with the Holy Spirit.

1 The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 It is written in the prophet Isaiah: Look, I am going to send my messenger in front of you to prepare your way before you.

3 A voice of one that cries in the desert: Prepare a way for the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 John the Baptist was in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5 All Judaea and all the people of Jerusalem made their way to him, and as they were baptised by him in the river Jordan they confessed their sins.

6 John wore a garment of camel-skin, and he lived on locusts and wild honey.

7 In the course of his preaching he said, ‘After me is coming someone who is more powerful than me, and I am not fit to kneel down and undo the strap of his sandals.

8 I have baptised you with water, but he will baptise you with the Holy Spirit.’

My take on it… many have been sent to prepare us for the final judgement. It says to prepare a way for the Lord, and make his paths straight. The most direct path is always the straight path. When we wander off the true path, taking wrong turns, looking for something better or different or more exciting, that’s when we lose our way. (I know, I get lost all the time. But, not on purpose. As soon as I can, Siri gets me back on the right path. Maybe that’s what we need. We need a Siri app that zaps us when we wander off the straight and narrow in life.)

Mom is in the middle, with her big smile, even though she feels terrible, weak and tired, and has pneumonia. Always a smile on her face. That’s my role model and my guiding light.

Saturday:) Special Holiday Greetings

10 Dec

“The best gifts are home-made, home-baked, and made with love.”

~ Toni Armenta Andrukaitis


I love to cook, I love to bake, and I love to make special gifts for friends and family. Oh my, when I visited with my friend Vicky last week, her tree was up and just glistening and filled to the brim with hand-painted Toni ornaments. I know most of my friends can say the same. I love it when they send me photos of their tree. It makes me smile.

While I’m here at Mom’s, I was playing around with some ideas for Christmas cards. I wanted to come up with a design that I could have Mom and her friends here learn to paint. I always make a lot of proto-types before I come up with a good idea.

Poor Mom’s table is covered in glitter, and papers, and glue, and paints.

I painted some on watercolor paper, in a long row, so I could cut them up. The paper was too thick and buckled up. Still useable, just harder to work with.

Then, I painted directly on the notecards. Still buckled a little. But, I set them under some heavy books after they dried. The third time is a charm. I decided that if I used pastel chalk for the sky, the cards wouldn’t get as damp, and wouldn’t buckle as much. Of course, always matching envelopes.

Oh..,there must be glitter. What is a snowy scene without glitter?

This is what Mom’s kitchen table looks like right now, as we speak. Quite a mess, and very sparkly, but very creative looking. (At least until the glue dries.)

Finished products. A labor of love…and glitter.

Friday:) Friends, Fun Crafts, and PIZZA!!!

9 Dec

“Crafting isn’t for sissies. It’s for sisters.”

~Toni Armenta Andrukaitis


This morning, Mom’s good friend, Mary Ann, was giving a little craft class downstairs in the activity room. Mom still isn’t feeling 100%, but she didn’t want to miss making some fun foam memory books, book marks, and decorations.

I stayed up late painting notecards, but I took out a few minutes to make a batch of brownies to take down in the morning. Of course, I had to make my funny face in the brownie mix before baking, even at Mom’s. I’m goofy, even on the road.

The ladies had fun with foam cut outs, stamps, ribbons, and more. Mary Ann, who volunteers to host this craft group every month, is so funny. She’s a hoot!

Mom and I made a bunch of cute mini notebooks and book marks.

We had a good time. Later, my sister came over, and we both needed to get out of the house. With the frigid cold weather, we tend to go stir crazy after a couple of days coupled up in the house. She asked where I wanted to go for lunch, PIZZA!!!! I NEED PIZZA!!! I hadn’t had my double dose of Chicago pizza yet.

We were thinking a medium pepperoni, but last minute changed it to a large so I could have some leftovers. Yum! Chicago pizza is the best! I may have to have a couple slices tonight with my Black Russian Friday.

A Good Friday. Hope you are crafting this Christmas season, too.

Thursday:) Thinking Outside the Box

8 Dec

“Inventions are the necessity of motherhood.”

~ Toni Armenta Andrukaitis


“Thinking outside of the box is unnecessary when there are no boxes in your imagination.”

Matshona Dhliwayo


Forget that saying, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” I think mothers, and daughters, and wives, and sisters, and women in general are always inventing things to fulfill a particular need. Then, I think some man comes along and patents the idea and makes a lot of money. Just sayin’.

Last week, I was busy painting ornaments at Mom’s house. I only brought three brushes, three 2 oz bottles of paint, and some glitter. I couldn’t bring my huge makeshift tomato cages that I hang my ornaments on in my carry on backpack on the plane. So, I had to invent a drying rack. I scoured the closets, under beds, and cabinets in Mom’s tiny two bedroom condo. Hmm?

Light bulb moment. I took some hangers, a handful of clothes pins, a long handled broom, and scooted two dining chairs to form a drying rack. Don’t forget a large garbage bag beneath to collect any excess glitter. (Now, Mom’s house sparked with glitter…just like mine.)

I got all my ornaments and matching boxes painted and dispersed, and the glitter is put away. Oh wait! I’m still painting some Christmas cards too. I think I’ll add some glitter. A girl can never sparkle too much.

Here’s what the finished product looks like. I forgot to take a picture of my Chicago batch.

Wednesday:) Wild, Wacky Women and Best Friends

7 Dec

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born.”

Anaïs Nin


Being blessed with a fine loving family is wonderful, and being blessed with so many, wacky wonderful friends is the frosting on a giant twenty foot chocolate cake.

When I get back to e Chicago area, or “back home,” as I like to call it, I love getting together with old friends. Yep! We’re all getting older. Not that old. Just a little older, a tiny bit. A few of us discussed our Medicare options and plans over dinner. Sad! How did that sneak up on us?

Monday night, our old bowling buddies got together for our Christmas gift exchange, and also to celebrate Lin’s birthday. I think she’s 29? Maybe 30? Not more than that.

We were pretty lucky. The restaurant was pretty empty and we dillied and dallied, and were loud and crazy and had wrapping paper strewn all over the place. And gifts…gifts every where.

Me, Vicky, Lin, Diane, and Vivian. This is our old bowling team. We used to bowl together every Wednesday while the kids were young and in school. Now, most the kids are parents of their own, and we are grandmas. Yikes! I met Vivian when our sons were in third grade together. That was about 28 years ago. When we get together, it seems like yesterday.

We had a wonderful Italian dinner, great conversation, lots of hugs and kisses, many presents, and celebrated our long and loving friendship. Girlfriends rule!

My wonderful friends carefully gifted by God. Love you girls!

Tuesday:) Today is Baby Belle’s Birthday

6 Dec

“You think you could never love so much as when you hold your own child. Then, you hold your grandchild, and you know you were wrong.”

~ Toni Armenta Andrukaitis


The temperatures in the Chicago area went from the unseasonably balmy 60’s yesterday, then plunged with ferocious bitter cold winds, now in the 20’s. But, cold, nor wind, nor gloom of day could prevent me from celebrating my first grandchild’s first birthday on this special day. December 5th. This is one of my testimony trilogy miracle days. Belle Trinidad was born one year ago today, turning a painful day on the calendar into a day of celebration.

My sister and I drove to Deerfield to meet Joe, Lindsay and Baby Belle for dinner at a very nice Mexican restaurant, El Tadicional. <Hmmm? She looks good in a sombrero. Must be in the blood.

I was glad that I could be in town for this special day. She is just so cute. Belle rarely gets to see me, so she smiles and giggles when I’m at a distance and mommy or daddy are holding her, but she whimpers if I try and hold her. (Well, that’s gonna have to change!)

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times. I am blessed.

Happy birthday Belle!

Montage Monday:)A Week In A Peek

4 Dec

“As mothers and daughters, we are connected with one another. My mother is the bones of my spine, keeping me straight and true. She is my blood, making sure it runs rich and strong. She is the beating of my heart. I cannot now imagine a life without her.”

Kristin Hannah


It’s so nice to be here with my sweet mother. I love the quote above, it is so accurate. My mother is the spine and heart and soul of our family.

Here’s a week in a peek…

Sunday Sermon and Baby Belle’s First Birthday

4 Dec

“May you only know joy and laughter

And live happily ever after

When each day and night are through

May all of you dreams come true.”

~ Toni Armenta Andrukaitis


This morning I had the pleasure of my first visit to St. Thomas Moore Church in Elgin, I woke up pretty early to get to 8 o’clock Mass. Normally I attend 10:30 Mass with Mom here at The Greens, but I needed to get on the road for Belle’s first birthday party and naming ceremony at 11.

The church was lovely, with a modern flair.

Today’s Gospel was the story about Jesus telling us to be watchful.


MK 13:33-37

Jesus said to his disciples:

“Be watchful! Be alert!

You do not know when the time will come.

It is like a man traveling abroad.

He leaves home and places his servants in charge,

each with his own work,

and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.

Watch, therefore;

you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,

whether in the evening, or at midnight,

or at cockcrow, or in the morning.

May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.

What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!'”

My take on it…just be ready all the time folks. We never know what day will be our last. Be good, kind, honest and love one another. And you know what? Leading a good life doesn’t cost you anything. Love and kindness and honesty and goodness are free to give and receive.

NOW! For Baby Belle’s first birthday. My beautiful granddaughter will be one year old on December 5th. A very special day for me. There was a fun pizza birthday party at Il Forna in Deerfield. Belle’s first pizza. She likes it. Her daddy never liked pizza.

There was a beautiful and emotional naming ceremony during the party.

I have been very blessed with two fine sons, a lovely daughter-in-law, and an adorable granddaughter. I have a wonderful family and amazing friends. I count my blessings every day. More so today.

Belle was tired by the end of the day. Or maybe she just didn’t want the party to end.

Saturday:) Some Special Hispanic Holiday Cooking

3 Dec

“When someone asks me if I like Mexican food, I always tell them that growing up, we just called it food.”

~Toni Armenta Andrukaitis


Growing up on the south side of Chicago, we never thought of food as Mexican, Italian, Polish, or whatever nationality of choice, we just called it food. Mom cooked a big pot of pinto beans, carnitas, juevos rancheros, enchiladas, and tacos on a regular basis. Every Saturday afternoon, she lined up the Formica counter with small orbs of flour tortilla dough, then would roll out each one, and place each, one at a time on the hot comal. (A flat griddle) This was a painstaking labor of love. Three little girls would huddle around the stove for the first fresh off the comal delicacies. A dab of butter and a quick roll up, then devoured quicker than Mom could roll them out. Nice memories.

Back then, we didn’t think of it as Mexican food. It was just food. We didn’t even speak Spanish. I never learned Spanish until I went to high school.

So last week, I was really in my element. I had a chance to make “food” for some friends.

I prepared a build your own burrito lunch: a roasted corn and black bean salsa, sautéed green peppers and onions, shredded turkey, refried beans, diced tomatoes, sliced avocado, salsa, and warm flour tortillas.

We started with chips and salsa, conversation, and “food” would not be complete without margaritas.

(If you’d like any of my recipes, you can call or write me. But, it won’t do you much good. I don’t use recipes.)

Oh, and there were roses. Over a dozen knockout roses from my front yard. Late November, and beautiful roses. A perfect setting, great food, and wonderful friends.


The best part was that because I was home, I could have a margarita. I have a very strict NO DRINKING AND DRIVING policy. I have honored that rule for nearly four decades. Being a festive occasion, I had two.

Then, for dessert, I prepared my traditional Toni funny face brownies. I make the funny face before I mix. It just makes baking a lot more fun. They were delicious. ( my secret…add some mini marshmallows into the batter and sprinkle chocolate chips on top before baking.

I love to cook and bake, and my friends love to eat. What a winning combination.

Friday:) Fun Building A Better Snowman

2 Dec

Snowmen fall from heaven unassembled.


It might be a while before I see some snow. That’s ok. I’ve had enough frigid winters in Chicago. It’s been pleasantly mild so far, but I hear the temps may be dropping soon here in Elgin. Maybe a white Christmas? Maybe not.

I did have fun today building several snowmen. Ah, but they weren’t cold or went or difficult to build. I was helping my sister create and put together cute snowmen wrappers for some large specialty candy bars. I researched several ideas on Pinterest, and came up with my own design.

The good part about being at Mom’s is she keeps as much craft and art supplies as I do. Well, not quite as many, but a pretty close second. She had all the materials needed.

Here’s the finished product so you can see how cute he is.

If you see the regular size Hershey bar above, you can see that these candy bars are twice as big and make for a really cute snowman. It’s hard to see in the photo, but the scarf is made from burgundy flocked ribbon. Mom had some star wire to tie the scarf, and she had construction and white paper, and chalk for the cheeks. They weren’t difficult to make, just time consuming. I really didn’t have a pattern, so I had to makeshift my own design. What do you think? Mom and I will make some smaller ones for Christmas.

I always thought this cartoon was funny.