July 31, 2014

Office Reunion

University of Wisconsin—Madison, September 2010. I dislike cluttered spaces.


Lake Nipissing, Ontario, Canada, July 1964. This lovely German couple owned and operated Samoset Lodge.


Kaunas, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, about 1973. My Dad's older cousin Vytas visits my Kaunas Cousin's family. (That's Musytė on the left.)

July 30, 2014


Verona, Wisconsin, July 2014. The doe pauses so her fawn can catch up to her.

We stop at the camp.

Camp Kretinga (later Camp Aušra), Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada, July 1960. I don't remember visiting the place.

Best Dressed

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Autumn 1950. Kadis—the husband of my Dad's twin sister Jonėis ready to rendezvous with his friends.

Thanks to my Kadis's and Jonė's daughter—my Toronto Cousin—for making this photo available to us.

July 29, 2014

Accordion Reunion

Seattle, Washington, July 29, 2014. Friends visiting Collections Café looked up at the ceiling and thought of us.

Babos Receptai (Part 1)

"Babos Receptai" means "Grandma's Recipes." My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, copied her favorite recipes into a Mead composition notebook. Most of those recipes are ones she used for entertaining; her everyday cooking was not remarkable. There were, however, two "noncompany" items for which Tatjana jotted the "prescription" (as we sometimes call "recipes") into the notebook. Both were sweets Tatjana regularly baked for the family.

The first treat was "Babos Pyragas," or "Grandma's Cake." Whether this was really Tatjana's own recipe, we don't know. Tatjana often called something "her" recipe if she considered it one of her signature dishes. Babos Pyragas resembles a large jam crostata. Tatjana prepared a cookie-like dough. She patted two-thirds of the dough into a rimmed cookie sheet. She covered the surface of the dough with strawberry jam. Tatjana then rolled the remaining portion and cut out leaf shapes out of the dough. She placed the shapes on top of the jam at curved angles so the leaves looked like fronds bending in the wind. Tatjana usually overbaked this treat because the strawberry jam would have burnt, chewy specks in the corner pieces.

Here's the notebook page for the recipe. Tatjana was a messy cook; most of her recipe pages are smattered with batter, just like this one. Tatjana must have dictated this recipe because the ingredients appear in my Mom's handwriting. (I don't remember anyone making the "Šarlotka" recipe that appears on the same page in blue ink):

Here's how I wrote up the recipe:

Babos Pyragas

4 cups all-purpose flour
1-1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 to 4 tablespoons sour cream (recipe called for 2 heaping tablespoons)
2 tablespoons grain alcohol 
1-1/2 cups strawberry jam

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and adjust the oven rack to the center position.Butter a 15-by-10-inch rimmed cookie sheet ("jelly roll pan"). Sift the flour and set aside.

Use an electric mixer to cream the butter with the sugar for about 5 minutes, or until the mixture is very light in color. Add the vanilla extract and grain alcohol. Stir in enough sour cream to make a soft dough. Using a spatula, fold in the flour, mixing only until the flour disappears.

Gather the dough into a ball. Divide the dough into thirds. Wrap one third is plastic wrap and refrigerate. Press the remaining two-thirds of the dough evenly into the prepared pan. The dough should be about one-third inch thick.

Spread the strawberry jam over the dough. Roll the remaining, chilled dough on a well floured surface until it is about 1/4-inch thick. Using a sharp knife or pastry wheel, cut out decorative leaf shapes. Arrange these over the jam in bent shapes.

Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, or until lightly browned. Cool before slicing into about 36 wedges.

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What was the second treat Tatjana often baked for us? It was a Banana Cake. The recipe appeared in the 1956 edition of the Betty Crocker Picture Cook Book. Tatjana baked the cake in a 10-inch tube pan (she called that pan her "Babka Form"). Tatjana also overbaked this cake; I remember the smell of the slightly burnt crumbs.

Here's how Tatjana copied the recipe for the Banana Cake. The recipe on the lower half of the page is for a Poppy Seed Torte:

"How does one create a record of memories, especially if they are borrowed ones?"

A Latvian photographer visits her ancestral village.

July 26, 2014

Unfamiliar Reunion

Chicago, Illinois, July 6, 2013. We return to the city, and many spots are unrecognizable to us.

Picnic Lull

Tinley Park, Illinois, June 1966. I think it's time to go home.

Summer-Clothes Pose

Kaunas, Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic, September 9, 1973. Dora and her husband look more relaxed in their lighter gear. Dora wrote: "Looking at my tree-stump legs you'd never recognize what a looker I was once. At least I'm still smiling."

July 25, 2014

Territorial Work

Verona, Wisconsin, July 2014. The red-winged blackbird engages the intruder.

The Next Step

Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada, July 1960. Don't worry; Mom's keeping an eye on me.

(This photo was one of Dad's favorites.)

Summer Garden

Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1957. Toronto Al's Mom, Lea, and her mother are ready for a weekend outing.

Thanks to Toronto Al for making this photo available to us.


The three countries from which the blog has gotten the most readers in the last week are:

United States (572)
Russia (98)
Ukraine (95)

The post that has gotten the most "all time" independent hits* is this one.

*Hits not resulting from a link from another blog or site.

"The next time you wake up and smell the coffee ...

... you can also look down and see a cat butt as you rest your mug on one of these inspired Cat Butt Coasters."

July 24, 2014

Down the Trail

Glacier National Park, Montana, July 1968. We've chosen our path.


Suburban Chicago, December 1962. My paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, usually stiffened up when Dad took her photograph. She must be unwinding here. Here's another photo from the same day.

The bishop arrives.

Camp Aušra (later Camp Kretinga), Wasaga Beach, Ontario, Canada, 1959. Even the doggie pays attention to the guest of honor.

“Normally it’s a kind of community organization where young Russians with a nationalist and religious orientation can go and participate in activities like you’d expect from the Boy Scouts – parades, fish fries, that sort of thing[.]”

The Cossack resurgence.

July 23, 2014

Twisted Reunion

Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado, July 1967. The park trees are photogenic.

Summer Still

Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada, August 1959. My Mom, her two friends, and the Weimaraner dog appeared also in this clip.


Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Summer 1959. My Toronto Cousin and her mothermy Dad's twin sister, Jonė—visit Old City Hall.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

"Sanctions invite Putin agression."

Says Lithuania's President Dalia Grybauskaitė.

"[W]e are closest neighbors, so we know our neighbor very well."

July 22, 2014

Roadside Reunion

Verona, Wisconsin, July 1, 2014. She's not interested in the mail.

Fishing Reflections

Suburban Chicago, August 1963. There aren't any fish in the shallow water, but it's fun to spend the afternoon under a Weeping Willow.

Exchanging Portraits (Part 31)

Kaunas, Lithuania, about 1932. I don't know the identity of this fellow; his image appeared among the "new batch" photos I received from my Kaunas Cousin.

Thanks to my Kaunas Cousin for making this photo available to us.

July 21, 2014

Sweet Dreams

Raganų Kalnas (the "Hill of Witches"), Juodkrantė, Lithuania, August 2011. Some of the monsters will keep you up at night.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

We conclude the window-shopping trip.

Oakbrook, Illinois, August 1962. My Mom and my paternal Grandmother, Tatjana, stand with me near the Bonwit Teller store during our first visit to Oakbrook. I don't like to shop, but Oakbrook is one thing I've missed since I stopped living in the Chicago area. Oakbrook was a destination: even on a Sunday, when stores were not open.

(Here's that fountain in the Spring, and here it is in the Autumn.)

Related by Marriage: A Dance Festival, in Three Takes

Thirty years ago this month, the city of Cleveland, Ohio, hosted the Seventh World Lithuanian Dance Festival. Founded by Lithuanian Displaced Persons in 1957, the Dance Festival had convened every four years in Chicago through 1980. The Cleveland event was the first festival hosted outside of Chicago. Cleveland's ties to Lithuanian immigration and its tradition of preserving language and cultural practices paralleled Chicago’s. The city's decision to host the 1984 festival seemed like a natural extension of the Dance Festival tradition.
Mr. Irene was among the 2,000 folk dancers at the 1984 festival. He was the newest member of the Connecticut-based Lithuanian dance group, Vėtra. Mr. Irene had joined the group just three months before its festival debut in Cleveland. 

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Cleveland, Ohio, July, 1984.  Mr. Irene arrives in Cleveland in his rental car, a 1984 Pontiac Fiero. The car Mr. Irene originally had reserved car was not available, so the car-rental agency offered him the sports car at no additional cost.

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Cleveland, Ohio, July, 1984. Vėtra members perform at the Dance Festival.

July 20, 2014

July 19, 2014

It's "bambi season" again.

Verona, Wisconsin, August 2011. We saw our first fawn of the summer in our backyard last week. Several ago, we had twins.

Dad approves, too.

Suburban Chicago, November 1963. Dad takes his turn at modeling with the new living- and dining-room furniture. He's wearing one of those zippered cardigans* again.

*Zippered cardigans were fashionable in the 1960s. I don't recall Mom ever knitting a buttoned sweater for Dad, and Mr. Rodgers wore zip-front cardigans every day because his mother knitted them. I can't imagine a knitter would prefer sewing in a zipper over working buttonholes. It's much easier to knit a buttonhole than to sew in a separating zipper. Zippers had to be a male preference. Men in the 1960s must have found zippers more manly than buttons.

Okay; let's give it a try.

Door County, Wisconsin, June 1980. Mom agrees to follow her best friend, Donna, on a bicycle ride.

July 18, 2014

Red Squirrel

Lake Nipissing, Ontario, July 1965. My Dad liked to photograph red squirrels because they reminded him of Lithuania. He had no interest in taking snapshots of the brown or grey ones.

The Piano Teacher

Maywood, Illinois, April 1965. I never enjoyed piano lessons. It's really a pity: if I had focused on the keyboard as much as I did on the knitting needles, I'd be pretty good by now. Although I never took to the instrument, I adored my piano teacher, Mrs. M. I wasn't her favorite student, but she was very kind and patient with me. As a result, I count her among my favorite teachers.

Floating into the Weekend

Near Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1961. My Toronto Cousin and her Dad, Kadis, rent a dinghy.

Thanks to my Toronto Cousin for making this photo available to us.

July 17, 2014

A Young Oriole, in Three Takes

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Verona, Wisconsin, June 2014. Looking for Mom?

A Photographed Hike

Lake Nipissing, Ontario, Canada, July 1965. Here's another image from that day.

Birthday Girl

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Suburban Chicago, July 1961 or 1962. It's my childhood Best Friend's birthday. Happy Birthday!

(I was a guest at this party, but I didn't make it into these snapshots.)

Thanks to my Best Friend for sharing these photographs with us.


This performance by the Klaipeda Chamber Orchestra is from 2009, but the story is new.